The distribution of a range of integrins, E-cadherin, and carcino-embryonic antigen (CEA) like molecules in normal human oesophageal epithelium was investigated immunohistochemically on frozen sections of endoscopic biopsy specimens. The integrin subunits alpha 2, alpha 3, alpha 6, alpha v, beta 1, and beta 5 were expressed throughout the epithelium. There was strong expression of alpha 2, alpha 3, and beta 1 subunits in the basal cell layer and for all the subunits studied the intensity of the staining decreased as cells moved towards the lumen. The heterodimer alpha v beta 3 was expressed weakly in the basal aspect of the basal cell layer only. The CEA molecules were not present in the basal cells layer but there was weak expression in the prickle cell layer and strong positivity in the mature functional layer. E-cadherin was found throughout the epithelium but was weakly expressed at the basal aspect of the basal cells layer and showed strong positivity in the prickle cell and squamous cell layers. These results indicate that cell-cell (E-cadherin, CEA) and cell-matrix (integrins) adhesion molecules show a well defined spatial pattern of immunoreactivity in the oesophageal mucosa and may play a part in the maintenance of normal tissue architecture and physiological homeostasis.
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