Role of the E-cadherin/alpha-catenin complex in modulating cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesive properties of invasive colon carcinoma cells

Ann Surg Oncol. 1995 Sep;2(5):378-85. doi: 10.1007/BF02306369.


Background: The clinical behavior of colorectal cancer depends on its ability to invade and metastasize. Metastatic cells must dissociate from other cells and invade through basement membrane and stroma. Cell-cell adhesion in epithelial cells is mediated by the cell surface protein E-cadherin in association with alpha- and beta-catenin, which link E-cadherin to the cytoskeleton. Decreased cell-cell adhesion and increased motility on laminin have been correlated with more poorly differentiated and aggressive carcinomas.

Methods: In this study, the RKO cell line, previously shown by us to lack E-cadherin expression, was transfected with the complementary DNA for E-cadherin. The transfectants were selected for high levels of surface expression by sequential FACS and examined in functional assays.

Results: In comparison to control transfectants, the E-cadherin transfectants exhibited a more epithelial-like morphology, a 30% increase in Ca(2+)-dependent cell-cell aggregation, and a markedly reduced motility on the matrix proteins, collagen I and laminin.

Conclusions: These data demonstrate that correction of a defect in the cadherin/catenin cell-cell adhesion complex, often found in poorly differentiated and highly invasive tumors, facilitates increased cell-cell adhesion and retards tumor cell migration on basement membrane and stromal proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Basement Membrane / metabolism
  • Basement Membrane / pathology
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Aggregation
  • Cell Movement
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Laminin / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism
  • Stromal Cells / pathology
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / pathology
  • alpha Catenin


  • CTNNA1 protein, human
  • Cadherins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Laminin
  • alpha Catenin
  • Collagen
  • Calcium