Immunohistochemical distributions of cathepsins D and E were determined in normal mucosa, metaplastic, dysplastic, and cancerous lesions of the human stomach. Cathepsins D and E were localised in the foveolar epithelium and parietal cells of the normal gastric mucosa, but their intracytoplasmic distributions were different - cathepsin E distribution was even and diffuse in the cytoplasm while cathepsin D was found in coarse intracytoplasmic granules. Chronic inflammation and ulcer did not influence the distribution of these enzymes. No positive staining was obtained in the incomplete type of intestinal metaplasia, dysplasia, and well differentiated adenocarcinoma. Tumour cells of signet ring cell carcinoma and poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma cells, however, gave strong and diffuse stainings for cathepsins D and E in the cytoplasm. The results suggest that the distribution of cathepsins D and E is related to each specialised function of the foveolar epithelium and the parietal cells, and that their disappearance is associated with development of well differentiated adenocarcinoma from intestinal metaplasia.
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