Smad4 is a tumour suppressor gene predominantly involved in gastrointestinal carcinogenesis. Loss of Smad4 is considered to be a genetically late step and occurs in up to 30% of metastatic colorectal carcinomas. Smad4, originally characterized as an intracellular transmitter of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) signals, is a transcriptional co-modulator capable of integrating cellular responses to multiple signalling cascades. Thus, there are many Smad4 target genes and they are presumably strongly context-dependent. It was recently shown that re-expression of Smad4 in Smad4-deficient SW480 human colon carcinoma cells restored epithelioid morphology and induced P-cadherin and E-cadherin transcription. The cadherins are key players in cell-cell adhesion connecting adjacent cells via the cadherin-catenin adhesion complex. Frequent loss of E-cadherin expression in human cancers has been a long-standing observation, but the underlying mechanisms are not yet fully understood. To assess the role of Smad4 in E-cadherin regulation in colorectal carcinogenesis further, the present study has analysed Smad4 and E-cadherin RNA and protein expression in colorectal carcinoma cell lines and in 51 late-stage colorectal carcinomas. In primary tumours, loss of Smad4 expression correlated highly significantly with loss of E-cadherin expression, thus providing further evidence for involvement of the tumour suppressor Smad4 in the control of expression of the tumour and invasion suppressor E-cadherin.
Copyright 2004 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.