Differences in the expression of epithelial-mesenchymal transition related molecules between primary tumors and pulmonary metastatic tumors in colorectal cancer

Surg Today. 2013 Jan;43(1):73-80. doi: 10.1007/s00595-012-0344-0. Epub 2012 Oct 7.


Purpose: Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a key event in cancer metastasis. This study immunohistochemically examined the expression of EMT-related molecules in both primary colorectal cancer and pulmonary metastases, and analyzed the expression pattern.

Methods: Ten patients with colorectal cancer that underwent surgical resections for both the primary tumor and metastatic pulmonary tumors were included. The expression status of EMT-related molecules was examined using immunohistochemical staining.

Results: Nine of the 10 cases maintained the expression of both E-cadherin and β-catenin in the primary site. The expression of E-cadherin and β-catenin in the pulmonary metastatic site was preserved in 10 and 12 out of 15 metastatic lesions, respectively. The EMT-related transcription factor, Twist, was positively expressed in all 10 cases, Smad interacting protein 1 (Sip1) in 9, Snail in 4 and Slug in 3 of the primary sites. On the other hand, staining for Twist, Sip1 and Snail at the metastatic pulmonary site, was negative in all 10 cases.

Conclusion: The expression of EMT-related transcription factors in metastatic pulmonary tumors from colorectal cancer decreased in comparison to the primary tumors. These findings suggested that the expression status of EMT-related transcription factors might play an important role in the implantation of metastatic foci.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / physiology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Twist-Related Protein 1 / metabolism*
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Cadherins
  • GEMIN2 protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • SNAI1 protein, human
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Twist-Related Protein 1
  • beta Catenin