Purpose: Aberrant crypt foci (ACF) of the colon are possible precursors of adenoma and cancer. beta-catenin alterations are early events in human colorectal carcinogenesis. beta-catenin expression is altered in colorectal cancer, adenoma, and ACF with dysplasia. Here, we describe the expression of beta-catenin in ACF, especially nondysplastic ACF.
Methods: Rectal chromoscopy with 4% indigo carmine was performed on 418 subjects and 146 biopsy specimens, including 10 dysplastic ACF, 106 nondysplastic ACF, and 30 normal colonic mucosal controls taken under endoscopy. The expression and subcellular distribution of beta-catenin were assessed by immunohistochemistry.
Results: beta-catenin expression was altered in 1 of 30 (3.3%) normal mucosa, 30 of 106 (28.3%) nondysplastic ACF, and 10 of 10 (100%) dysplastic ACF (P<0.001). Notably, most cells with altered beta-catenin expression in nondysplastic ACF were limited to the bottom of the crypt, where stem cells are located.
Conclusions: Both dysplastic and nondysplastic ACF have altered beta-catenin expression and play a role in colon tumorigenesis.