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Open Access Research article

Morphological distribution of μ chains and cd15 receptors in colorectal polyp and adenocarcinoma specimens

Caterina Defendenti16*, Fabiola Atzeni2, Anna Maria Croce3, Elena Mussani3, Simone Saibeni4, Simona Bollani4, Silvia Grosso1, Piero Luigi Almasio5, Savino Bruno4 and Piercarlo Sarzi-Puttini2

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory Unit and Divisions of Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Milan, Italy

2 Rheumatology Unit, L. Sacco University Hospital, Milan, Italy

3 Pathology, Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Milan, Italy

4 Gastroenterology, Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Milan, Italy

5 GI & Liver Unit, DIBIMIS, Policlinico, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy

6 Unità di Sierologia e Autoimmunità, Ospedale Fatebenefratelli, Corso di Porta Nuova 23, Milan, 20133, Italy

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BMC Clinical Pathology 2013, 13:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-13-8

Published: 1 March 2013



We have recently investigated the localisation of immunoglobulin-producing cells (IPCs) in inflamed intestinal tissue samples from patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and identified two main patterns of B lymphocyte infiltration: one characterised by the moderate strong stromal localisation of small B1 cell-like IgM+/CD79+/CD20-/CD21-/CD23-/CD5 ± IPCs, and the other by the peri-glandular localisation of IPCs with irregular nuclei that had surface markers specific for a B cell subset (IgM and CD79), but quantitative differences in their λ and κ chains. The same patients were also tested for CD15+ receptors, which were localised on inflammatory cell surfaces or in the crypts of the intestinal epithelium. CD15+ receptor distribution in inflamed tissues was limited to the cell structures. The aim of the study was to analyse variations in IPCs and CD15+ cell morphology or distribution in bowel biopsy specimens taken from patients with pre-malignant polyps or adenocarcinomas.


IPCs were analysed by means of immunofluorescence using polyclonal goat anti-human μ chains. The pre-malignant polyp specimens were tested for B cell surface phenotype λ and κ chains, CD79, CD20, CD21 and CD23 using an immunoperoxidase method. CD15+ cells were evaluated using the immunoperoxidase method and monoclonal anti-CD15 IgM.


The study involved 14 patients (four with pre-malignant polyps and 10 with colorectal adenocarcinomas). The distribution of μ chains and CD15 markers varied in all of the biopsies, but delineated normal cell structures in the pre-malignant polyp specimens. B cell surface phenotype analysis of μ chain-positive cells identified a subset of CD79+/CD20-/CD21-/CD23- IPCs. The IPCs in certain areas showed the sporadic disintegration of inflammatory cell membranes or the accumulation of fluorescence in individual cells. IPC membrane disintegration was particularly marked in all of the adenocarcinoma samples, in which the CD15 markers also showed epithelial cell involvement. Furthermore, six of the ten adenocarcinoma samples had atypical and reorganised membranes that expressed an excess of both receptors and isolated small portions of tissue within the tumour.


The findings of this preliminary morphological study suggest the presence of membrane disintegration and remodelling mechanisms in the tumours. The newly-formed membranes expressed high concentrations of inflammatory cell receptors that can confer adhesive properties.

Inflammatory bowel disease; B-1 cells; Sialyl-LewisX; Colorectal adenocarcinoma; Matrix metalloproteinases