Retinoid Status Controls the Appearance of Reserve Cells and Keratin Expression in Mouse Cervical Epitheliu

Nadine Darwiche, Giulia Celli, Linda Sly, Francesca Lancillotti, Luigi M. De Luca

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56 Scopus citations


We describe an animal model to induce the histogenesis of squamous metaplasia of the cervical columnar epithelium, a condition usually preceding cervical neoplasia. This model is based on dietary retinoid depletion in female mice. Control sibling mice fed the same diet but with all-tauts-retinoic acid (at 3 ug/g diet) showed the normal endocervical epithelial and glandular columnar morphology, typical of a simple epithelium without subcolumnar reserve cells. The stratified squamous ectocervical epithelium of these mice fed all-trans retinoic acid showed intense immunohistochemical staining in basal and suprabasal cells with monospecific antibodies against keratins K5, K14, K6, K13, and, suprabasally, with antibodies specific for Kl and K10. At the squamocolumnar junction, the adjacent columnar epithelium (termed “suprajunctional”) did not show staining for K5, K14, K6, K13, Kl, and K10 but specifically stained for keratin K8, typical of simple epithelia and absent from the adjacent ectocervical squamous stratified lining (termed “subjunctional”), in striking contrast. Sections of the squamocolumnar junction from mice kept on the vitamin A-deficient diet for 10 weeks showed suprajunctional isolated patches of reserve cells, proximal and distal to the junction. These cells were detected prior to any symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, such as loss of body weight or respiratory discomfort The subcolumnar reserve cells induced by vitamin A deficiency displayed positive staining for K5 and K14. As deficiency became severe, the reserve cells occupied the entirety of the suprajunctional basement membrane. This epithelium eventually became stratified and squamous metaplastic, the squamocolumnar junction was no longer discernible, and the entire endocervical epithelium and the endometrial glands lost K8 positivity, while acquiring K5, K14, K6, K13, Kl, and K10 keratins typical of the ectocervix under normal conditions of vitamin A nutriture. Vitamin A deficiency also altered keratin expression and localization in squamous subjunctional epithelium. In situ hybridization studies for Kl and K5 mRNA showed their major site of expression at the basal (K5) and immediately suprabasal (Kl) cell layers. The localization of both K5 and Kl proteins in these same cell layers, and above, is consistent with transcriptional regulation of these keratins. Early vitamin A deficiency caused the appearance of single subcolumnar reserve cells expressing K5 mRNA. After these cells grew into a squamous focus, Kl mRNA became expressed suprabasally. We conclude that retinoid status plays a key role in maintaining differentiative characteristics of the cervical and glandular epithelia and, as such, may be a modulating factor in the development of cervical cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2287-2299
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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