Methods: Histologically proven OSCC and paired normal mucosa were analyzed for CDH1 promoter methylation status and E-cadherin protein expression by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry. Colocalization of E-cadherin with epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR) was evidenced by confocal microscopy and by immunoprecipitation analyses.
Results: This study indicated E-cadherin protein down-regulation in OSCC associated with protein delocalization from membrane to cytoplasm. Low E-cadherin expression correlated to aggressive, poorly differentiated, high grade carcinomas and low patient survival. Moreover, protein down-regulation appeared to be due to E-cadherin mRNA downregulation and CDH1 promoter hypermethylation. In an in vitro model of OSCC the treatment with EGF caused internalization and co-localization of E-cadherin with EGFR and the addition of demethylating agents increased E-cadherin expression.
Conclusion: Low E–Cadherin expression is a negative prognostic factor of OSCC and is likely due to the hypermethylation of CDH1 promoter. The delocalization of E-cadherin from membrane to cytoplasm could be also due to the increased expression of EGFR in OSCC and the consequent increase of E-cadherin co-internalization with EGFR.