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Dis Esophagus. 2015 Feb-Mar;28(2):196-203. doi: 10.1111/dote.12165. Epub 2014 Jan 15.

Association of mu-opioid receptor expression with lymph node metastasis in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

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Institute of Oncologic Pathology, Shantou University Medical College, Shantou, China.


The mu-opioid receptor (MOR), a membrane-bound G protein-coupled receptor, is the main target for opioids in the nervous system. MOR1 has been found in several types of cancer cells and reported to be involved in tumor progression and metastasis. However, the expression and clinical significance of MOR1 in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) remain unclear. In our study, the expression of MOR1 was confirmed in ESCC cell lines (KYSE180, KYSE150, and EC109) by Western blot. MOR1 was also detected on tissue microarrays of ESCC samples in 239 cases using immunohistochemical staining. We found that MOR1 was mainly located in the cytoplasm and occasionally occurred in the membrane or nucleus of ESCC cells. Moreover, results indicated that MOR1 expression in the cytoplasm was associated with lymph node metastasis (R = 0.164, P = 0.008, Kendall's tau-b-test). No more associations were found between MOR1 expression status and other clinical parameters. However, no statistical significant differences were found between MOR1 expression in the cytoplasm, nucleus/membrane, and the overall survival of ESCC patients (P = 0.848; P = 0.167; P = 0.428, respectively, log-rank test). Our results suggest that the cytoplasmic MOR1 may be a high-risk factor for lymph node metastasis of ESCC patients. We also hypothesize that MOR1 agonists used in ESCC patients should be prudent, and opioid receptor antagonists may be novel therapeutic drugs for ESCC patients.


ESCC; GPCR; survival; μ-opioid receptor

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