Virchows Archiv. B, Cell pathology including molecular pathology

Villin: a cytoskeletal protein and a differentiation marker expressed in some human adenocarcinomas.

PMID 2894090


We studied the expression of villin, a microfilament-associated, actin-binding protein typical of brush-border microvilli, in a variety of human carcinomas by applying immunofluorescence microscopy to frozen sections and immunoblotting methods to tissue extracts using a rabbit antiserum and a monoclonal antibody specific for villin. All of the 24 primary and metastatic colorectal adenocarcinomas tested were uniformly and strongly positive for villin, with the immunocytochemical labeling concentrated at the luminal cell margin. In poorly differentiated tumor areas, rudimentary tubules were stained. All of the six tubular adenocarcinomas of the stomach studied as well as two adenocarcinomas of the gall bladder and a hepatocellular carcinoma were also villin-positive. Villin was detectable in 12 of 14 adenocarcinomas of the pancreas; in some of these cases, its distribution was heterogeneous. Among 21 renal cell carcinomas investigated, positivity for villin was seen in nine of 13 clear cell tumors (especially those of grade II), and in all four chromophilic cell tumors; however, all four chromophobe cell tumors studied were negative. Four of 11 endometrial but none of nine ovarian carcinomas were (uniformly or focally) villin positive. Of 18 adenocarcinomas of the lung studied, one was uniformly and four focally positive for villin, while the remainder were negative. All of the other epithelial tumors studied, including 12 adenocarcinomas of the breast and seven epithelial or biphasic pleural mesotheliomas, were villin negative. Our results show that the expression of villin in intestinal epithelial cells is consistently maintained in their corresponding carcinomas, even when the organized brush-border structure has been lost. The presence of villin in some endometrial and pulmonary adenocarcinomas--in contrast to its absence in the respective normal epithelia--suggests that this protein is newly expressed during hyperplasia, dysplasia, or carcinogenesis. Determining the presence or absence of villin and its immunocytochemical staining pattern in metastatic adenocarcinomas may be of some help in determining the type and site of the primary tumor.