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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 1, 1991; 88(17): 7792–7796.

Differential expression of epidermal growth factor-related proteins in human colorectal tumors.


Amphiregulin (AR) and cripto are proteins that are structurally related to epidermal growth factor (EGF) and transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha). AR is also functionally related to this family of growth regulatory molecules and is able to bind and activate the 170-kDa EGF receptor (EGFR). Human EGFR-3 (HER3)/ERBB3 is a recently identified protein related to the EGFR that is widely expressed in breast carcinomas and is a candidate receptor for EGF-like growth factors. Differential expression of these putative ligands and receptors in transformed cells suggests that they may function in an autocrine manner to regulate tumor cell growth. Specific mRNA transcripts for TGF-alpha [4.8 kilobases (kb)], AR (1.4 kb), cripto (2.2 kb), and HER3 (6.2 kb) were expressed in a majority of human colon cancer cell lines. HER3 mRNA was detected in 55% of primary or metastatic human colorectal carcinomas but in only 22% of normal colon mucosa and 32% of normal liver samples. In contrast, cripto and AR mRNA were expressed in 60-70% of primary or metastatic human colorectal cancers but in only 2-7% of normal human colonic mucosa. Immunostaining also detected AR protein in primary and metastatic colorectal tumors but not in normal colon or uninvolved liver. These findings suggest that cripto and AR may be useful markers to discriminate between normal and malignant colonic epithelium and may provide a selective growth advantage for colorectal carcinomas.

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