Two distinct calcium-sensitive cell-cell adhesion molecules were identified in human epithelial tissues and carcinomas using two monoclonal antibodies raised against vulvar epidermoid carcinoma A-431 and human mammary carcinoma MCF-7 and selected on the basis of their activities to disrupt cell-cell adhesion. In immunoblot analysis, these antibodies, designated NCC-CAD-299 and HECD-1, detected main bands of Mr 118,000 and 124,000, respectively. Purified tryptic fragments of the antigen recognized by NCC-CAD-299 showed cross-reactivity with a rabbit antiserum against mouse P-cadherin, indicating that this molecule was the human homologue of P-cadherin. On the other hand, the antigen recognized by HECD-1 showed essentially the same tissue distribution pattern as E-cadherin in the mouse, suggesting that this molecule is the human homologue of E-cadherin. Availability of these monoclonal antibodies to human P- and E-cadherin allowed us to examine their distributions in human tissues immunohistochemically. Both antigens were detected in epithelial tissues, but they showed distributions that were distinct from each other. The antigen recognized by HECD-1 was expressed in almost all epithelial tissues, while distribution of the other one recognized by NCC-CAD-299 was restricted to the basal or lower layers of stratified epithelia in which both antigens were coexpressed. Moreover, immunohistochemical examination of 44 lung carcinomas showed that both molecules were coexpressed in all of them, and suggested that expression of P-cadherin was closely related to the differentiation of carcinoma cells.

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This work was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid from the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan for a Comprehensive 10-Year Strategy for Cancer Control.

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