Transfection of E- and P-cadherin cDNA has been carried out in murine spindle carcinoma cells previously shown to be deficient in both cadherins (Navarro et al., J. Cell Biol. 115, 517-533, 1991). High levels of expression of E- or P-cadherin do not significantly affect the fibroblastic morphology of the parental spindle cells. In addition, the tumorigenic behavior of these highly malignant cells is not influenced by the ectopic expression of either cadherin. Nevertheless, a fraction of the exogenous cadherins is able to associate to detergent-insoluble components of the transfectant cells, and the expression of the exogenous E-cadherin confers Ca(2+)-dependent aggregation on the spindle transfectants in an in vitro assay. Immunoprecipitation analysis of the cadherin-catenin complex of the transfectants revealed that the ectopic E-cadherin associates with the alpha- and beta-catenin proteins. However, the gamma-catenin/plakoglobin component could not be detected in the E-cadherin immunocomplexes of the spindle transfectant cells, in contrast to the epithelial cells where the three catenins appeared to be associated with E-cadherin. The lack of association of gamma-catenin is correlated with very low levels of plakoglobin in whole cell extracts of the parental spindle cells. These results indicate that the association of E-cadherin with the alpha- and beta-catenin components is not sufficient to promote a fibroblastoid-epithelial conversion of highly malignant spindle cells. The presence of plakoglobin could be required for the proper organization of E-cadherin in the transfectant cells in order to acquire an epithelioid phenotype.
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