Altered Expression and Localization of the Tight Junction Protein ZO-1 in Primary and Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

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IntroductionZO-1 is a tight junction membrane protein that plays a critical role in cell–cell interaction, proliferation, and differentiation.AimTo localize and evaluate the expression of ZO-1 in the normal human pancreas, in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), and in chronic pancreatitis (CP).Methodology and ResultsNorthern and Western blot analysis revealed ZO-1 expression in all six tested pancreatic cancer cell lines. Expression of ZO-1 mRNA was increased sixfold in PDAC samples in comparison with normal samples (p = 0.04). Confocal microscopy revealed the presence of ZO-1 in the apical and apicolateral areas of ductular cells in the normal pancreas. Similarly, in CP, ZO-1 was localized at apical and apicolateral areas of small proliferating ductular cells and large metaplastic ducts. In PDAC, however, ZO-1 expression was observed irrespective of whether the cancer cells formed duct-like structures or exhibited a diffuse infiltrating pattern. Metastatic pancreatic cancer cells within lymph nodes displayed variable staining patterns, ranging from apical and apicolateral to a diffuse membranous staining.ConclusionThese observations suggest that ZO-1 is overexpressed in PDAC and raise the possibility that this overexpression may confer a metastatic advantage to pancreatic cancer cells.

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