CEACAM1-4S, a cell-cell adhesion molecule, mediates apoptosis and reverts mammary carcinoma cells to a normal morphogenic phenotype in a 3D culture

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Jan 21;100(2):521-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.232711199. Epub 2003 Jan 9.


In a 3D model of breast morphogenesis, CEACAM1 (carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 1) plays an essential role in lumen formation in a subline of the nonmalignant human breast cell line (MCF10A). We show that mammary carcinoma cells (MCF7), which do not express CEACAM1 or form lumena when grown in Matrigel, are restored to a normal morphogenic program when transfected with CEACAM1-4S, the short cytoplasmic isoform of CEACAM1 that predominates in breast epithelia. During the time course of lumen formation, CEACAM1-4S was found initially between the cells, and in mature acini, it was found exclusively in an apical location, identical to its expression pattern in normal breast. Lumena were formed by apoptosis as opposed to necrosis of the central cells within the alveolar structures, and apoptotic cells within the lumena expressed CEACAM1-4S. Dying cells exhibited classical hallmarks of apoptosis, including nuclear condensation, membrane blebbing, caspase activation, and DNA laddering. Apoptosis was mediated by Bax translocation to the mitochondria and release of cytochrome c into the cytoplasm, and was partially inhibited by culturing cells with caspase inhibitors. The dynamic changes in CEACAM1 expression during morphogenesis, together with studies implicating extracellular matrix and integrin signaling, suggest that a morphogenic program integrates cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix signaling to produce the lumena in mammary glands. This report reveals a function of CEACAM1-4S relevant to cellular physiology that distinguishes it from its related long cytoplasmic domain isoform.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / physiology*
  • Antigens, Differentiation / physiology*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Caspases / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Cytochrome c Group / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2*
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • BAX protein, human
  • CD66 antigens
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Cytochrome c Group
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Caspases