Background: Cadherins are essential components of the adherens junction complexes that mediate cell-cell adhesion and regulate cell motility. During tissue morphogenesis, changes in cadherin expression (known as cadherin switching) are a common mechanism for altering cell fate. Cadherin switching is also common during epithelial tumor progression, where it is thought to promote tumor invasion and metastasis. E-cadherin is the predominant cadherin expressed in epithelial tissues, but its expression is very limited in normal brain.
Methodology/principal findings: We identified E-cadherin expression in a retrospective series of glioblastomas exhibiting epithelial or pseudoepithelial differentiation. Unlike in epithelial tissues, E-cadherin expression in gliomas correlated with an unfavorable clinical outcome. Western blotting of two panels of human GBM cell lines propagated either as xenografts in nude mice or grown under conventional cell culture conditions confirmed that E-cadherin expression is rare. However, a small number of xenograft lines did express E-cadherin, its expression correlating with increased invasiveness when the cells were implanted orthotopically in mouse brain. In the conventionally cultured SF767 glioma cell line, E-cadherin expression was localized throughout the plasma membrane rather than being restricted to areas of cell-cell contact. ShRNA knockdown of E-cadherin in these cells resulted in decreased proliferation and migration in vitro.
Conclusions/significance: Our data shows an unexpected correlation between the abnormal expression of E-cadherin in a subset of GBM tumor cells and the growth and migration of this aggressive brain tumor subtype.