A truncated beta-catenin disrupts the interaction between E-cadherin and alpha-catenin: a cause of loss of intercellular adhesiveness in human cancer cell lines.
Cadherin cell adhesion molecules play an essential role in creating tight intercellular association and are considered to work as an invasion suppressor system of cancer cells. They form a molecular complex with catenins, a group of cytoplasmic proteins including alpha- and beta-catenins. While alpha-catenin has been demonstrated to be crucial for cadherin function, the role of beta-catenin is not yet fully understood. In this study, we analyzed the cadherin-catenin system in two human cell lines, HSC-39 and its putative subline HSC-40A, derived from a signet ring cell carcinoma of stomach. These cells grow as loose aggregates or single cells, suggesting that their cadherin system is not functional. In these cell lines, an identical 321-base pair in-frame mRNA deletion of beta-catenin was identified; this led to a 107-amino-acid deletion in the NH2-terminal region of the protein. Southern blot analysis disclosed a homozygous deletion in part of the beta-catenin gene. On the other hand, these cells expressed E-cadherin, alpha-catenin, and plakoglobin of normal size. Immunoprecipitation analyses showed that E-cadherin was coprecipitated with the mutated beta-catenin but not with alpha-catenin, and antibodies against beta-catenin did not copurify alpha-catenin. However, the recombinant fusion protein containing wild-type beta-catenin precipitated alpha-catenin from these cells. These results suggest that the dysfunction of E-cadherin in these cell lines is due primarily to its failure to interact with alpha-catenin, and that this defect results from the mutation in beta-catenin. Thus, it is most likely that the association between E-cadherin and alpha-catenin is mediated by beta-catenin, and that this process is blocked by NH2-terminal deletion in beta-catenin. These findings indicate that genetic abnormality of beta-catenin is one of the mechanisms responsible for loosening of cell-cell contact, and may be involved in enhancement of tumor invasion in human cancers.