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Clin Chem. 2004 Mar;50(3):490-9. Epub 2004 Jan 15.

Differential gene expression of Eph receptors and ephrins in benign human tissues and cancers.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany.



Eph receptors and their ligands, the ephrins, represent a large class of cell-cell communication molecules with well-defined developmental functions. Their role in healthy adult tissues and in human disease is still largely unknown, although diverse roles in carcinogenesis have been postulated.


We established a set of fluorescent PCR probes and primers for the definition of individual gene expression profiles of 12 different Eph receptors and 8 ephrins in 13 different healthy tissues. The mRNA expression profiles were studied in human lung, colorectal, kidney, liver, and brain cancers.


The family of Eph receptors/ephrins was widely expressed in adult tissues with organ-site-specific patterns: EphB6 was highest in the thymus, compatible with an involvement in T-cell maturation. Brain and testis shared a unique pattern with EphA6, EphA8, and EphB1 being the most prominent. EphA7 had a high abundance in the kidney vasculature. Ephrin-A3 was up-regulated 26-fold in lung cancer, and EphB2 was up-regulated 9-fold in hepatocellular carcinoma. EphA8 was down-regulated in colon cancer, and EphA1/EphA8 was down-regulated in glioblastomas.


Eph/Ephrin genes are widely expressed in all adult organs with certain organ-site-specific patterns. Because their function in adult tissues remains unknown, further analysis of their role in disease may disclose new insights beyond their well-defined meaning in development.

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