During tumour progression, cancer cells use diverse mechanisms to escape from apoptosis-inducing stimuli, which may include receptor internalization, inhibition of signal pathways, and regulation of specific sets of genes. Substantial numbers of colon cancer cells have been observed to express Fas/Fas ligand, but are resistant to Fas-mediated apoptosis, suggesting that colonic tumours might develop specific mechanisms to overcome Fas-mediated apoptosis. Recently, cellular FLICE-like inhibitory protein (cFLIP) has been identified as an endogenous inhibitor of Fas- or other receptor-mediated apoptosis and its altered high expression has a suspected association with tumour development or progression. In an effort to investigate the prevalence of cFLIP(L) alterations in colon carcinomas and their possible implications for the progression of colon cancers, cFLIP(L) expression was analysed in adenocarcinomas and adenomatous polyps of colon, with matched normal tissues, at RNA and protein levels, by semi-quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunohistochemistry. cFLIP(L) transcripts were constitutively expressed in colon cancers and expression levels were significantly higher in carcinomas than in normal tissues (p<0.05). Overexpression of cFLIP(L) protein was found exclusively in carcinoma cells in all matched sets analysed and approximately three-fold induction was detected in cancer cells (p<0.05). The expression of cFLIP(L) protein was not significantly altered in adenomatous polyps compared with normal tissues. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that abnormal overexpression of cFLIP(L) is a frequent event in colon carcinomas and might contribute to in vivo tumour transformation.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.