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Peptides. 2008 Sep;29(9):1609-15. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2008.04.014. Epub 2008 May 2.

Increased neurotensin receptor-1 expression during progression of colonic adenocarcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.


The high affinity neurotensin receptor (NTSR1) mediates most of the biologic effects of neurotensin (NT), a 13-amino acid peptide that stimulates growth in certain cell types. NT is expressed in fetal but not differentiated colonic epithelium and is re-expressed in colonic adenocarcinoma. The cognate receptor, NTSR1, is also not expressed or is present at a low level in adult colonic epithelial cells but is expressed in most colon cancer cell lines. These observations suggest that altered NT-NTSR1 signaling may be associated with malignant transformation in the colon. To further understand the possible role of NTSR1 expression in colonic tumorigenesis and progression, we examined NTSR1 mRNA by in situ hybridization in normal colonic mucosa, adenomas, and colonic adenocarcinomas. NTSR1 mRNA expression was undetectable or weak in superficial differentiated epithelial cells of normal colonic epithelium, but adenomas and adenocarcinomas showed moderate to strong expression (p<0.05). Adenocarcinomas showed a higher level of expression compared to adenomas (p<0.05). Furthermore, adenocarcinomas that infiltrated into and beyond the muscularis propria showed a higher intensity of NTSR1 expression compared with tumors that were localized to the mucosa or submucosa. In some cases, infiltrating margins and foci of lymphovascular invasion showed a higher intensity of expression than the main mass of the tumor. These results suggest that increased NTSR1 expression may be an early event during colonic tumorigenesis and also contribute to tumor progression and aggressive behavior in colonic adenocarcinomas. NTSR1 may thus be a potential target for preventive or therapeutic strategies in colon cancer.

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