N-cadherin promotes adhesion between invasive breast cancer cells and the stroma

Cell Adhes Commun. 1997 Mar;4(6):399-411. doi: 10.3109/15419069709004457.


Calcium-dependent cell adhesion molecules (cadherins) are involved in maintaining the epithelial structure of a number of tissues including the mammary gland. In breast and other tumor types, loss of E-cadherin expression has been seen in high grade tumors and correlates with increased invasiveness. Here we show high levels of expression of N-cadherin in the most invasive breast cancer cell lines which was inversely correlated with their expression of E-cadherin. A stromal cell line also expressed N-cadherin in accordance with its fibroblastic morphology. N-cadherin localized to areas of cell-cell contact in all cells that expressed it. Calcium-dependent intercellular adhesion of N-cadherin-expressing breast cancer and stromal cells was specifically inhibited by an anti N-cadherin monoclonal antibody. In addition, N-cadherin promoted the interaction of invasive breast cancer cells with mammary stromal cells; in contrast, E-cadherin expressing cell lines did not co-aggregate with stromal cells. The combined results suggest a functional role for N-cadherin in cohesion of breast tumor cells which, in addition promotes their interaction with the surrounding stromal cells, thereby facilitating invasion and metastasis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism
  • Trans-Activators*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • alpha Catenin
  • beta Catenin


  • CTNNA1 protein, human
  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Cadherins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • alpha Catenin
  • beta Catenin