TJs located in the junctional complex of epithelial cells and endothelial cells, consist of three essential membrane proteins: claudins, occludins and JAM. These maintain cell polarity, adhesion, and regulate cell proliferation and differentiation . Recent studies suggest that the invasive and metastatic characteristics of ovarian cancer may be associated with abnormal structure and function of TJs in addition to activation of matrix metalloproteinases . Currently the possibility that abnormalities in TJ s protein expression relate to the invasion and metastasis of ovarian cancer has not been widely examined. Similarly, studies concerning the correlation of claudin-6, occludin and MMP-2 with ovarian cancer have rarely been reported. In this study, we used immunohistochemistry to detect the expression of claudin-6, occludin and MMP-2 in 36 cases of ovarian papillary serous carcinomas and 26 patients with ovarian serous adenomas. We looked for correlations between the expression of these parameters and clinical stage, histological grade and metastasis. Our data show that the positive expression rates of claudin-6 and MMP-2 were higher in ovarian papillary serous carcinoma than in ovarian serous adenomas specimens. Also, MMP-2 expression was enhanced with increased clinical stage, and metastasis. We speculate that the up-regulation of claudin-6 plays a role in ovarian cancer carcinogenesis and metastasis by influencing structure and function of TJs or promoting the activation of MMP-2 that degrades the extracellular matrix, and can be used as an index for the prognostic assessment of ovarian cancer carcinogenesis and metastasis.
Expression of Claudin-6 in ovarian cancer tissue and its significance
The loss of cell polarity and abnormal permeability is a characteristic change in malignant epithelial tumors [17, 18]. TJs are the key structures that maintain these functions in epithelial cells, but structure and function of TJs are changed in many epithelial tumors. Claudins aberrant regulation was related to abnormal structure and function of TJs . It has been reported that several kinds of tumors have relation with up-regulation of claudins. For example, claudin-3 and claudin-4 were expressed at high levels in endometrioid adenocarcinoma  and prostate cancer ; claudin-10 expression was up-regulated in hepatocellular carcinoma  and thyroid papilloma ; claudin-2 has been reported to be up-regulated in thyroid cancer and endometrial cancer . Claudins have also been shown to promote tumor invasion by the activation of MMPs [5, 11, 12]. Similarly, down-regulation of several claudin proteins has also been reported to promote tumor invasion by the reduction of TJs function in various cancers. For example, down-regulation of claudin-1 has been found in colon cancer . Down-regulation of claudin-7 has been found in invasive breast cancer . These reports of down-regulated TJs expression in cancer are consistent with the generally accepted idea that tumorigenesis is accompanied by a disruption of TJs, a process that may play a critical role in the loss of cohesion and invasiveness observed in cancer cells. Claudin-6 belongs to the family of claudin proteins. We found previously that, claudin-6 was down-regulated in breast cancer cells [26, 27] as well as in gastric cancer , but up-regulated in ovarian cancer cells. We recently found claudin-6 inhibited invasion in breast cancer cells by reversing EMT (data not show). Together, the up-regulation and down-regulation of the claudin proteins are both related to various human cancers due to high tissue-specific expression manners of claudin proteins. We speculated that aberrant expression of claudin-6 protein may play a key role in the invasion and metastasis of ovarian cancer and other cancers.
Our data show that the expression of claudin-6 in 36 ovarian papillary serous carcinomas is significantly higher than in 26 ovarian serous adenomas; claudin-6 expression in metastatic tumors was significantly higher than in the tumors without metastasis. Though this difference was not statistically significant, it suggests that up-regulation of caudin-6 may play a role in the occurrence, invasion and metastasis of ovarian cancer. It is unclear why there is elevated expression of claudins and associated destruction of TJs in tumorigenesis and metastasis. However, it seems possible that the aberrant up-regulation of claudins may alter the constituent ratio of TJs. On the one hand, it may cause changes in the structure of TJs leading to loss of the integrity of TJ function, increases in cell gap and loss of robustness of the cell junction. On the other hand, it may lead to disappearance of cell polarity, weakening of intercellular adhesion and facilitation of invasion. These changes may regulate tumor cell proliferation, differentiation, survival and apoptosis though some signal transduction pathways, which play a role in occurrence, invasion and metastasis of tumor. In addition, up-regulation of claudins may activate MMPs that also promote invasion and metastasis of tumors. We speculate that up-regulation of claudin-6 may have the same mechanism play a role in occurrence, invasion and metastasis of ovarian cancer.
Occludin expression in ovarian cancer tissue and its significance
Occludin is a transmembrane protein that has an important role in maintaining function of TJs . Our results show that occludin expression in is low in comparison with its expression in ovarian serous adenomas, occludin expression is less in poorly differentiated ovarian carcinoma than in well-differentiated tumors. Although this result was not statistically significant, it suggests that occludin expression in ovarian cancer may play a role in the occurrence and development of ovarian tumors. Currently relevant information found occludin expression to be low in a variety of tumors, such as endometrial cancer tissue and in human prostate cancer tissue [30–32]. Osanai et al.  transfected the occludin gene into tumor cells and found that it can affect the phenotype of the tumor cells, in particular by increasing the sensitivity of transfected tumor cells to apoptotic factors, thereby acting as a tumor suppressor. It has been suggested that inhibition of occludin may act on TJs directly or indirectly to bind with factors that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation and cell cycle, receiving and imparting PKC and Rho protein etc. molecular signaling, regulating tumor cell survival .
MMP-2 expression in ovarian cancer tissue and its significance
Campo et al.  found MMP-2 was undetectable or expressed at low levels in benign ovarian tumors and low-grade malignant tumors without invasion. Such tumors had a continuous basement membrane. In contrast, MMP-2 expression was high and basement membranes were widely missing in aggressive tumors accompanied by distant organ and lymph node metastasis. MMP-2 and MMP-9 have been related to poor prognosis and lung metastasis in breast cancer [36, 37]. Subsequently Autio-Harnainen  found expression of MMP-2 in both epithelial and stromal cells by immunohistochemistry in their studies of ovarian tumors. Our studies showed that MMP-2 expression was higher in ovarian papillary serous carcinomas than in ovarian serous adenomas. MMP-2 expression in ovarian cancer was higher as the clinical stage increased and MMP-2 positive expression was significantly higher (P < 0.05) in ovarian cancers with metastasis than without metastasis. This result suggests that high expression of MMP-2 may be related to the invasion and metastasis of ovarian cancer and supports the view of Parsons , that high expression of MMP-2 in ovarian cancer suggests that invasion and metastasis has occurred.
Correlation of expression of claudin-6, occluding and MMP-2
Our correlation studies showed that expression of the TJ proteins claudin-6, occludin and MMP-2 were not correlated in ovarian cancer. The experimental results show that the expression of MMP-2 was up-regulated in ovarian cancer. Claudin-6 was also increased. To some extent, the high expression of MMP-2 may be due to increased Claudin-6 expression, thus speeding up the extracellular matrix degradation and resulting in the damage to the structure of TJs. Agarwal et al.  found that up-regulation of claudin-3 and claudin-4 in ovarian cancer promoted metastasis of ovarian cancer. These workers thought that the up-regulation of claudin-3 and claudin-4 may take effect by increasing MMP-2. MMP-2 not only regulates the adhesion between cells thereby affecting invasive metastasis of tumor cell, but also induce activation of extracellular protein, and plays a key role in attracting inflammatory cells and spontaneously stimulating migration of tumor cells . MMP-2 can also promote tumor angiogenesis by rebuilding the extracellular matrix . MMP2 is a prognostic indicator in patients with lymph node-negative breast carcinomas . Many genes can be significant prognostic and diagnostic markers for ovarian tumors. For example, estrogen maybe a diagnostic marker in some kinds of tumor , Eag is a prognostic indicator in ovarian cancer , p53 and metallothionein may be helpful in the typing of borderline and malignant ovarian tumors . The difference in expression of P53, MAPK, topoisomerase II alpha and Ki67 between low and high-grade group indicate these genes may be the prognostic markers in ovarian cancer . To determine whether MMP2 is a prognostic indicator in ovarian tumors need further researches in the future.
Our present study shows that claudin-6 and MMP-2 were both up-regulated in ovarian cancer, MMP-2 expression was enhanced with increased clinical stage and metastasis indicates that claudin-6 and MMP-2 may play an important role in the progression of ovarian cancer. However, the correlations between claudin-6 expression with occludin and MMP-2 expression have not been observed.