Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Functional characterization of E- and P-cadherin in invasive breast cancer cells

David Sarrió12, José Palacios3, Marta Hergueta-Redondo1, Gonzalo Gómez-López4, Amparo Cano1 and Gema Moreno-Bueno1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry UAM, Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas "Alberto Sols" (CSIC-UAM), C/Arturo Duperier 4. 28029, Madrid, Spain

2 Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre, The Institute of Cancer Research, 237 Fulham Road, SW3 6JB, London, UK

3 Servicio de Anatomía Patológica, Hospital Virgen del Rocío, Avda, Manuel Siurot S/N, 41013, Sevilla, Spain

4 Bioinformatics Unit, UBio, Spanish National Cancer Research Center, CNIO, C/Melchor Fernández Almagro, 28029 Madrid, Spain

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BMC Cancer 2009, 9:74  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-74

Published: 3 March 2009



Alterations in the cadherin-catenin adhesion complexes are involved in tumor initiation, progression and metastasis. However, the functional implication of distinct cadherin types in breast cancer biology is still poorly understood.


To compare the functional role of E-cadherin and P-cadherin in invasive breast cancer, we stably transfected these molecules into the MDA-MB-231 cell line, and investigated their effects on motility, invasion and gene expression regulation.


Expression of either E- and P-cadherin significantly increased cell aggregation and induced a switch from fibroblastic to epithelial morphology. Although expression of these cadherins did not completely reverse the mesenchymal phenotype of MDA-MB-231 cells, both E- and P-cadherin decreased fibroblast-like migration and invasion through extracellular matrix in a similar way. Moreover, microarray gene expression analysis of MDA-MB-231 cells after expression of E- and P-cadherins revealed that these molecules can activate signaling pathways leading to significant changes in gene expression. Although the expression patterns induced by E- and P-cadherin showed more similarities than differences, 40 genes were differentially modified by the expression of either cadherin type.


E- and P-cadherin have similar functional consequences on the phenotype and invasive behavior of MDA-MB-231 cells. Moreover, we demonstrate for the first time that these cadherins can induce both common and specific gene expression programs on invasive breast cancer cells. Importantly, these identified genes are potential targets for future studies on the functional consequences of altered cadherin expression in human breast cancer.