Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin is a locally invasive, rarely metastasizing epithelial tumor. In the current study, the expression of E- cadherin, α- and β-catenin and CD44V6 in normal epidermis and on BCC cells were investigated. A significantly reduced expression of α-catenin and CD44V6 and a slightly reduced expression of E-cadherin on BCC cells were observed compared with the overlying epidermis. Immunoelectron microscopy was used to investigate whether the decreased expression of E-cadherin and CD44V6 was due to either an absence or downregulation of specific membrane structures or due to an overall downregulation of these adhesion molecules in all membrane structures in BCC. E-cadherin and CD44V6 were expressed in adherens junctions, desmosomes, and complex interdigitating membrane structures both in normal epidermis and in BCC. A quantitative analysis showed that only a percentage of desmosomes was stained. In addition, the effect of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interferon-γ (IFN-γ) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), was investigated in biopsy specimens of normal skin and BCC, using a biopsy culture system and immunohistochemistry. The expression of E-cadherin and CD44V6 was not significantly decreased after culturing BCC or normal skin biopsy specimens for 48 hours with or without recombinant human (rHu)IFN-γ or rHuTNF-α. It may be concluded that the decreased expression of both E-cadherin and CD44V6, observed in light microscopy, was not attributable to the absence of specific specialized structures in BCC and most likely also not caused by downregulation by local cytokines, but rather by generic downregulation of both of these adhesion molecules during malignant transformation.

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Human Pathology
Department of Pathology

Kooy, A., Tank, B., de Jong, T., Vuzevski, V., van der Kwast, T., & van Joost, T. (1999). Expression of E-cadherin, α- and β-catenin, and CD44V6 and the subcellular localization of E-cadherin and CD44V6 in normal epidermis and basal cell carcinoma. Human Pathology, 30(11), 1328–1335. doi:10.1016/S0046-8177(99)90064-3