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World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Aug 21;22(31):7146-56. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i31.7146.

Nicotinic cholinergic receptors in esophagus: Early alteration during carcinogenesis and prognostic value.

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Marina Chianello Nicolau, Luis Felipe Ribeiro Pinto, Ana Rossini, Tatiana de Almeida Simão, Departamento de Bioquímica, Instituto de Biologia Roberto Alcantara Gomes, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 20551-013, Brazil.



To compare expression of nicotinic cholinergic receptors (CHRNs) in healthy and squamous cell carcinoma-affected esophagus and determine the prognostic value.


We performed RT-qPCR to measure the expression of CHRNs in 44 esophageal samples from healthy individuals and in matched normal surrounding mucosa, and in tumors from 28 patients diagnosed with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). Next, we performed correlation analysis for the detected expression of these receptors with the habits and clinico-pathological characteristics of all study participants. In order to investigate the possible correlations between the expression of the different CHRN subunits in both healthy esophagus and tissues from ESCC patients, correlation matrices were generated. Subsequently, we evaluated whether the detected alterations in expression of the various CHRNs could precede histopathological modifications during the esophageal carcinogenic processes by using receiver operating characteristic curve analysis. Finally, we evaluated the impact of CHRNA5 and CHRNA7 expression on overall survival by using multivariate analysis.


CHRNA3, CHRNA5, CHRNA7 and CHRNB4, but not CHRNA1, CHRNA4, CHRNA9 or CHRNA10, were found to be expressed in normal (healthy) esophageal mucosa. In ESCC, CHRNA5 and CHRNA7 were overexpressed as compared with patient-matched surrounding non-tumor mucosa (ESCC-adjacent mucosa; P < 0.0001 and P = 0.0091, respectively). Positive correlations were observed between CHRNA3 and CHRNB4 expression in all samples analyzed. Additionally, CHRNB4 was found to be differentially expressed in the healthy esophagus and the normal-appearing ESCC-adjacent mucosa, allowing for distinguishment between these tissues with a sensitivity of 75.86% and a specificity of 78.95% (P = 0.0002). Finally, CHRNA5 expression was identified as an independent prognostic factor in ESCC; patients with high CHRNA5 expression showed an increased overall survival, in comparison with those with low expression. The corresponding age- and tumor stage-adjusted hazard ratio was 0.2684 (95%CI: 0.075-0.97, P = 0.0448).


Expression of CHRNs is homogeneous along healthy esophagus and deregulated in ESCC, suggesting a pathogenic role for these receptors in ESCC development and progression.


Alcohol; Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; Esophagus; Gene expression; Nicotinic cholinergic receptors; Tobacco

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