Phenotypic alterations of mucins and cytokeratins during gallbladder carcinogenesis

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In order to evaluate the significance of altered expression of mucin and cytokeratin during gallbladder carcinogenesis, we characteriazed the expressional profiles of MUC1, MUC2, MUC5AC, MUC6, CK7 and CK20 in 33 normal mucosa, 31 adenomas, 55 dysplasias and 131 carcinomas of the gallbladder. In normal gallbladder mucosa, the expressions of MUC5AC and MUC6 were diffuse and MUC1 expression was absent. However, in adenomas, dysplasias and carcinomas, the expressions of MUC5AC and MUC6 tended to decrease, whereas MUC1 expression was elevated. MUC2 and CK20 were infrequently expressed in all of the gallbladder epithelia, but adenomas expressing MUC2 and/or CK20 were more frequently associated with carcinomas and showed a higher grade of atypia than those without these antigens. In carcinomas, MUC1 expression was related to invasive growth, lymph node metastasis and a non-papillotubular type, whereas MUC6 expression was related to non-invasive growth. CK7 was diffusely expressed in almost all lesions, but carcinomas with a loss of CK7 expression showed poor survival. In conclusion, normal gallbladder mucosa has a gastric phenotype, but during carcinogenesis and tumor progression, the gastric phenotype is gradually lost and the aberrant expression of MUC1 occurs. The intestinal phenotype is not common in the gallbladder.

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