Cadherin expression in gastrointestinal tract endometriosis: Possible role in deep tissue invasion and development of malignancy

Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520-8023, USA.
Modern Pathology (Impact Factor: 6.19). 11/2009; 23(1):38-44. DOI: 10.1038/modpathol.2009.127
Source: PubMed


Cadherins are cell surface proteins crucial for cell adhesion and tissue integrity. The mechanism of deep tissue invasion in gastrointestinal endometriosis is unknown and may be related to the altered expression of these cell surface proteins. The goal of this study was to evaluate the expression of N-cadherin, E-cadherin, and beta-catenin in peritoneal endometriotic implants, gastrointestinal endometriosis, and carcinoma arising in gastrointestinal endometriosis. Cases of peritoneal endometriosis, gastrointestinal endometriosis, and carcinoma arising in gastrointestinal endometriosis were identified from our pathology database. Immunohistochemistry was performed using antibodies against N-cadherin, E-cadherin, and beta-catenin on representative tissue sections. Cases of normal proliferative and secretory endometrium and adenomyosis were included in the study for comparison. The intensity and extent of staining for each marker was scored semiquantitatively. Appropriate positive and negative controls were used. A total of 38 cases (peritoneal endometriosis (n=14), gastrointestinal endometriosis (n=21: 11 colon, 8 appendix, 2 small bowel), and 3 cases of endometrioid carcinoma arising in colonic endometriosis (n=3)) were included in the study. Compared with normal proliferative endometrium, N-cadherin expression was decreased in intensity and extent in secretory endometrium. Peritoneal and gastrointestinal endometriosis also showed markedly decreased expression of N-cadherin compared with proliferative endometrium. All three cases of carcinoma arising in colonic endometriosis showed a total loss of N-cadherin in the tumor, but preserved E-cadherin and beta-catenin expression. In these cases, areas of benign endometriotic glands near the tumor showed weak and focal N-cadherin expression that was gradually lost. Moderate-to-strong membranous staining for beta-catenin expression and variable intensity of E-cadherin expression was seen diffusely in normal endometrium and all study cases. These results strongly suggest that alterations of N-cadherin expression in gastrointestinal endometriosis may have an important role in the mechanism that underlies deep tissue invasion, and possibly also in the development of malignancy.

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