, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 99-110

N-cadherin expression in adrenal tumors: Upregulation in malignant pheochromocytoma and downregulation in adrenocortical carcinoma

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Cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) are important regulators of tumor growth. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the expression pattern of CAMs in adrenal tumors regarding origin (cortex vs medulla) and biologic behavior (benign vs malignant). Eighty-seven adrenal tumors were investigated by immunocytochemistry (ICC) using monoclonal antibodies against N-cadherin (NCAD), E-cadherin (ECAD), neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), and CD44. Western blotting was performed on 30 tumors using the same antibodies. Markers for proliferation (Ki-67) and catecholamine synthesis (tyrosine hydroxylase) were also analyzed in tumors by ICC. NCAD was expressed in 12/27 benign pheochromocytomas (BPCs) (12 familial cases), 8/8 malignant pheochromocytomas (MPCs), 28/30 adrenocortical adenomas, and 9/22 adrenocortical carcinomas. ECAD was expressed in 0/27 BPCs, 0/8 MPCs, 0/30 adrenocortical adenomas, and 2/22 adrenocortical carcinomas. NCAM was expressed in 26/27 BPCs, 7/8 MPCs, 21/30 adrenocrotical adenomas, and 17/22 adrenocortical carcinomas. CD44 was expressed in 23/27 BPCs, 6/8 MPCs, 7/30 adrenocortical adenomas, and 4/22 adrenocortical carcinomas. Both cortical and medullary adrenal tumors expressed NCAD, NCAM, and CD44 but were devoid of ECAD. The expression of CD44 and NCAM did not correlate with the malignant potential of tumors. NCAD was upregulated in MPCs, but downregulated in adrenocortical carcinoma. Thus, NCAD appears to be involved in the development of both cortical and medullary adrenal tumors.