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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 18;6(2):e14710. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014710.

Neurotensin receptor 1 is expressed in gastrointestinal stromal tumors but not in interstitial cells of Cajal.

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Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Faculty of Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.


Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are thought to derive from the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) or an ICC precursor. Oncogenic mutations of the KIT or PDGFRA receptor tyrosine kinases are present in the majority of GIST, leading to ligand-independent activation of the intracellular signal transduction pathways. We previously investigated the gene expression profile in the murine Kit(K641E) GIST model and identified Ntsr1 mRNA, encoding the Neurotensin receptor 1, amongst the upregulated genes. Here we characterized Ntsr1 mRNA and protein expression in the murine Kit(K641E) GIST model and in tissue microarrays of human GIST. Ntsr1 mRNA upregulation in Kit(K641E) animals was confirmed by quantitative PCR. Ntsr1 immunoreactivity was not detected in the Kit positive ICC of WT mice, but was present in the Kit positive hyperplasia of Kit(K641E) mice. In the normal human gut, NTSR1 immunoreactivity was detected in myenteric neurons but not in KIT positive ICC. Two independent tissue microarrays, including a total of 97 GIST, revealed NTSR1 immunoreactivity in all specimens, including the KIT negative GIST with PDGFRA mutation. NTSR1 immunoreactivity exhibited nuclear, cytoplasmic or mixed patterns, which might relate to variable levels of NTSR1 activation. As studies using radio-labeled NTSR1 ligand analogues for whole body tumor imaging and for targeted therapeutic interventions have already been reported, this study opens new perspectives for similar approaches in GIST.

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