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J Histochem Cytochem. 2004 Jun;52(6):821-31.

Tissue distribution of the death ligand TRAIL and its receptors.

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Department of Medical Oncology, University Hospital Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Recombinant human (rh) TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) harbors potential as an anticancer agent. RhTRAIL induces apoptosis via the TRAIL receptors TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2 in tumors and is non-toxic to nonhuman primates. Because limited data are available about TRAIL receptor distribution, we performed an immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis of the expression of TRAIL-R1, TRAIL-R2, the anti-apoptotic TRAIL receptor TRAIL-R3, and TRAIL in normal human and chimpanzee tissues. In humans, hepatocytes stained positive for TRAIL and TRAIL receptors and bile duct epithelium for TRAIL, TRAIL-R1, and TRAIL-R3. In brains, neurons expressed TRAIL-R1, TRAIL-R2, TRAIL-R3 but no TRAIL. In kidneys, TRAIL-R3 was negative, tubuli contorti expressed TRAIL-R1, TRAIL-R2, and TRAIL, and cells in Henle's loop expressed only TRAIL-R2. Heart myocytes showed positivity for all proteins studied. In colon, TRAIL-R1, TRAIL-R2, and TRAIL were present. Germ and Leydig cells were positive for all proteins studied. Endothelium in liver, heart, kidney, and testis lacked TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2. In alveolar septa and bronchial epithelium TRAIL-R2 was expressed, brain vascular endothelium expressed TRAIL-R2 and TRAIL-R3, and in heart vascular endothelium only TRAIL-R3 was present. Only a few differences were observed between human and chimpanzee liver, brain, and kidney. In contrast to human, chimpanzee bile duct epithelium lacked TRAIL, TRAIL-R1, and TRAIL-R3, lung and colon showed no TRAIL or its receptors, TRAIL-R3 was absent in germ and Leydig cells, and vascular endothelium showed only TRAIL-R2 expression in the brain. In conclusion, comparable expression of TRAIL and TRAIL receptors was observed in human and chimpanzee tissues. Lack of liver toxicity in chimpanzees after rhTRAIL administration despite TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2 expression is reassuring for rhTRAIL application in humans.

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