The ability of carcinomas to invade and to metastasize largely depends on the degree of epithelial differentiation within the tumors, i.e., poorly differentiated being more invasive than well-differentiated carcinomas. Here we confirmed this correlation by examining various human cell lines derived from bladder, breast, lung, and pancreas carcinomas. We found that carcinoma cell lines with an epithelioid phenotype were noninvasive and expressed the epithelium-specific cell-cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin (also known as Arc-1, uvomorulin, and cell-CAM 120/80), as visualized by immunofluorescence microscopy and by Western and Northern blotting, whereas carcinoma cell lines with a fibroblastoid phenotype were invasive and had lost E-cadherin expression. Invasiveness of these latter cells could be prevented by transfection with E-cadherin cDNA and was again induced by treatment of the transfected cells with anti-E-cadherin mAbs. These findings indicate that the selective loss of E-cadherin expression can generate dedifferentiation and invasiveness of human carcinoma cells, and they suggest further that E-cadherin acts as an invasion suppressor.

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