Dysfunction of E-cadherin and catenin has been linked to invasiveness and differentiation of tumors. This study aimed to characterize the expression of cadherins and catenins in early gastric carcinoma and their relationship to clinicopathologic characteristics and Helicobacter pylori infection. E-cadherin and alpha-, beta- and gamma-catenins were strongly expressed in normal epithelium but abnormal immunoreactivity of at least one of these four proteins was noted in 48 (90.6%) of 53 early gastric carcinomas. Only 5 cases with intestinal-type tumors had intact expression of E-cadherin and alpha-, beta-, and gamma-catenins. Abnormal immunoreactivity in the tumor tissue was observed in 18 patients (34.0%) for E-cadherin, in 35 (66.0%) for alpha-catenin, in 20 (37.7%) for beta-catenin, and in 37 (69.8%) for gamma-catenin. In diffuse-type tumors, abnormal expression of E-cadherin (60.9 vs. 13.3%, p < 0.0005), alpha-catenin (82.6 vs. 53.3%, p < 0.05) and gamma-catenin (91.3 vs. 53.3%, p < 0.005) was more frequent than in the intestinal type. Ten tumors with lymph node metastasis showed a relatively higher frequency of abnormal expression of E-cadherin (70 vs. 25.6%, p < 0.05) but a lower frequency of abnormal expression of beta-catenin (10 vs. 44.1%, p = 0.07) than those without metastasis. No significant association was found between cadherin/catenin expression and the depth of invasion or the H. pylori status. It was concluded that abnormal expression of E-cadherin and the catenin-mediated cell-cell adhesion system occurs frequently in early gastric carcinogenesis and may play an important role in the genesis of histologic differentiation and in the mode of metastasis of early gastric carcinomas.
Copyright 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel.