Background & aims: Most colon cancers arise from polypoid adenomas, but how these benign lesions develop into malignant neoplasms is not understood. This study examined the migration of epithelial cells within human adenomatous polyps by determining the distribution of proliferating and apoptotic cells and immunoreactivity to transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta).
Methods: Sections of surgically resected normal (n = 10) and adenomatous (n = 22) formalin-fixed tissue were examined for proliferating cells and TGF-beta isoenzymes 1-3 by immunohistochemistry and apoptotic cells by terminal deoxyuridine nick end-labeling.
Results: The distribution of proliferating, apoptotic, and TGF-beta immunoreactive cells was strikingly reversed in adenomatous polyps compared with normal mucosa. Proliferating cells were located in the base of normal colonic crypts and TGF-beta immunoreactive and apoptotic cells near or at the luminal surface, corresponding to the normal migration of colonocytes. In adenomas, increased numbers of proliferating cells were mainly located at the luminal surface and TGF-beta immunoreactive and apoptotic cells were located principally at the crypt base.
Conclusions: This distribution suggests that cell migration in adenomas is not toward the lumen but instead inward toward the polyp base.