Expression of cadherins and catenins correlates with distinct histologic types of ovarian carcinomas.
Alterations in the cadherin-catenin expression and activation of the Wnt signaling have been related to the pathology of ovarian carcinomas. Here, we evaluated the immunoreactivity of cadherins (E-, P-, and N-cadherin and cadherin-11) and catenins (alpha-, beta-, and gamma-catenin and p120) in 86 ovarian tumors. We found significant differences in the expression of all cadherins and catenins among the distinct histologic tumor types. Clear cell tumors were rarely N-cadherin- and P-cadherin-positive and showed reduced membranous expression in all the catenins; Serous carcinomas were frequently N-cadherin- and P-cadherin-positive, mucinous tumors strongly expressed E-cadherin and the catenins in the membrane, and endometrioid tumors characteristically expressed nucleocytoplasmic beta-catenin in most of the cases. We next studied whether allelic losses in the chromosomal regions containing various cadherin genes (16q22) or APC gene (5q21) occurred in ovarian tumors and observed a high frequency of loss of heterozygosity in 16q22 (78%) and 5q21 (33%) regions, but there were no differences among the tumor types analyzed. Finally, we also assessed the molecular alterations responsible for beta-catenin nuclear accumulation in endometrioid tumors by screening for mutations in AXIN1, AXIN2, APC, and KRAS genes. Mutations in KRAS were observed in 2 of 19 tumors, but no mutations were detected in AXIN1, AXIN2, or APC genes. Only beta-catenin gene mutations were associated with nuclear beta-catenin staining in these tumors. In conclusion, different cadherin-catenin expression patterns are associated with distinct histologic types. Oncogenic Wnt signaling plays a role only in endometrioid tumors, where beta-catenin mutations seem to be the main cause of its aberrant expression.