Tumor progression is characterized by loss of cell adhesion and increase of invasion and metastasis. E-cadherin, a cell adhesion molecule, is frequently downregulated and has been proposed as an important mediator in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in tumors. In this study, we investigated the expression of E-cadherin and its association with cancer invasion and prognosis in cholangiocarcinoma (CCA). Immunohistochemistry results demonstrated a statistically significant association between the positive metastasis status with low E-cadherin protein expression in human CCA tissues (P = 0.04). Statistical trends were identified for low E-cadherin level and shorter survival time (P = 0.08). Targeting the E-cadherin expression in CCA cells with siRNA caused upregulation of vimentin, a mesenchymal marker, and disappearance of the E-cadherin/β-catenin adhesion complex from cell membranes. Moreover, migration and invasion abilities of the cells were increased under this condition. These findings suggest that reduction of E-cadherin contributes to CCA progression by attenuating the strength of cellular adhesion, which affects motility as well as regulating the expression of EMT-related genes during CCA invasion and metastasis. Thus, E-cadherin can act as a central modulator of tumor cell phenotype and is a potential metastasis marker in CCA.
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