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Neuroendocrinology. 2011;94(4):291-301. doi: 10.1159/000330447. Epub 2011 Sep 2.

Incretin receptors in non-neoplastic and neoplastic thyroid C cells in rodents and humans: relevance for incretin-based diabetes therapy.

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Division of Cell Biology and Experimental Cancer Research, Institute of Pathology, University of Berne, Berne, Switzerland.


While incretins are of great interest for the therapy of diabetes 2, the focus has recently been brought to the thyroid, since rodents treated with glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogs were found to occasionally develop medullary thyroid carcinomas. Incretin receptors for GLP-1 and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) were therefore measured in various rodent and human thyroid conditions. In vitro GLP-1 and GIP receptor autoradiography were performed in normal thyroids, C-cell hyperplasia and medullary thyroid carcinomas in rodents. Receptor incidence and density were assessed and compared with the receptor expression in human thyroids, medullary thyroid carcinomas, and TT cells. GLP-1 receptors are expressed in C cells of normal rat and mice thyroids. Their density is markedly increased in rat C-cell hyperplasia and medullary thyroid carcinomas, where their incidence amounts to 100%. GIP receptors are neither detected in normal rodent thyroids nor in C-cell hyperplasia, but are present in all rat medullary thyroid carcinomas. No GLP-1 or GIP receptors are detected in normal human thyroids. Whereas only 27% of all human medullary thyroid carcinomas express GLP-1 receptors, up to 89% express GIP receptors in a high density. TT cells lack GLP-1 receptors but express GIP receptors. GLP-1 receptors are frequently expressed in non-neoplastic and neoplastic C cells in rodents while they are rarely detected in human C-cell neoplasia, suggesting species differences. Conversely, GIP receptors appear to be massively overexpressed in neoplastic C cells in both species. The presence of incretin receptors in thyroid C cell lesions suggests that this organ should be monitored before and during incretin-based therapy of diabetes.

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