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Carcinogenesis. 1996 Sep;17(9):1841-8.

Cell proliferation and esophageal carcinogenesis in the zinc-deficient rat.

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Department of Pharmacology, Kimmel Cancer Institute, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


Target cell proliferation was investigated throughout the development of esophageal cancer induced by N-nitroso-methylbenzylamine (NMBA) in weanling rats maintained on zinc-deficient or sufficient diets. Deficient rats were fed ad libitum, while zinc-sufficient rats were either pair-fed to the deficient animals or fed ad libitum. After 5 weeks, half of the animals in each dietary group were given six intragastric doses of NMBA (2 mg/kg; twice weekly). The remaining rats were untreated by carcinogen. At weeks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11 post first dose, esophageal cell proliferation was assessed in rats from each group by in vivo bromodeoxyuridine (BrDU) labeling followed by immunohistochemical detection of cells in S-phase. At 11 weeks, the tumor incidence was 100, 23 and 6%, respectively, in the zinc-deficient, zinc-sufficient, ad libitum and pair-fed groups. In vivo BrDU labeling revealed that in the NMBA-untreated groups, the labeling index (LI), the number of labeled cells, and the total number of cells per cross section of entire esophagi were significantly increased by zinc deficiency at all time points; LI was lowest in zinc-sufficient, pair-fed rats. During NMBA treatment (weeks 6, 7 and 8), increased cell proliferation occurred in both groups of zinc-sufficient esophagi but only during week 6 in the deficient ones. In the weeks following the cessation of NMBA treatment, zinc-deficient esophagi showed significantly increased LI and greater number of labeled cells than the carcinogen treated, zinc-sufficient pair-fed or ad libitum fed groups. On the other hand, NMBA-treated zinc-sufficient pair-fed rats showed lower LI and smaller number of labeled cells than their zinc-sufficient ad libitum counterparts. Most importantly, esophageal papillomas were found in two zinc-deficient animals that had received no NMBA treatment, after 10-11 weeks of experimental diet. These data support a direct relationship between cell proliferation and tumor incidence, and also provide evidence that zinc deficiency and its associated cell proliferation could be carcinogenic.

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