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Expression of epidermal growth factor in human tissues. Immunohistochemical and biochemical analysis.

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First Department of Pathology, Hiroshima University School of Medicine, Japan.


The expression of epidermal growth factor (EGF) was examined on various human tissues by radioimmunoassay, immunohistochemistry and Northern blot analysis. Immunoreactive EGF was found in most of the human tissues by radioimmunoassay at various levels. Large quantities of EGF were detected in the kidney and thyroid gland. Immunohistochemically, EGF immunoreactivity was detected mainly in the epithelial cells of the lung, stomach, duodenum, pancreas, kidney, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, mammary gland, ovary, uterus and placenta. Weakly EGF-positive cells were also found in the adrenal gland. The results of EGF-immunostaining were not always consistent with the data from radioimmunoassay. We consider that the amount of EGF measured by radioimmunoassay reflects the density of EGF-positive cells in the tissues and the concentration of EGF in individual EGF-positive cells. Furthermore, EGF mRNA was expressed in the salivary gland, thyroid gland, mammary gland and kidney. It is thus evident that EGF is produced by a variety of human tissues. The kidney expressed exceptionally high levels of EGF mRNA which was about one-tenth of the expression in mouse submandibular gland, suggesting that most of EGF in the urine is produced and secreted by the epithelial cells of renal tubules.

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