Ghrelin expression in hyperplastic and neoplastic proliferations of the enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cells.
Ghrelin, a recently discovered peptide isolated from the gastric corpus mucosa, is believed to be important in the regulation of growth hormone secretion and has been shown to increase appetite and food intake as well. It may also have other gastrointestinal and cardiac functions. Because a cell of origin for ghrelin has not been convincingly identified in the gastric mucosa thus far, we studied the immunohistochemical expression of ghrelin in proliferative lesions of the enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cells-a cell that is not only exclusively confined to the gastric corpus mucosa but is its dominant endocrine cell type as well. Formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded tissues from three cases of gastric ECL cell hyperplasia and five ECL carcinoids (three with coexisting foci of diffuse, linear, and micronodular hyperplasia) were immunohistochemically stained for ghrelin, using a commercially available antibody. The Sevier-Munger stain for ECL cells and immunohistochemical stains for chromogranin, gastrin, serotonin, somatostatin, and vesicular monoamine transporter-2 (VMAT-2) were performed on parallel sections for correlation with the ghrelin staining results. All ECL cell carcinoids and hyperplastic lesions were positive for both the Sevier-Munger and the immunohistochemical stains for chromogranin and VMAT-2. Immunoreactivity for ghrelin was seen in 4/5 ECL carcinoids, all cases of ECL cell hyperplasia, as well as in all areas with linear and micronodular hyperplasia adjacent to the ECL cell carcinoids. In each instance, such staining was confined to the Sevier-Munger, and VMAT-2 positive cells only. Our findings indicate that the ECL cells are either the ghrelin-producing cells of the gastric mucosa or acquire the capability to synthesize ghrelin during proliferative states encompassing the entire hyperplasia to neoplasia spectrum. In view of the orexigenic and other known actions of ghrelin, the functional and/or biologic significance of ghrelin production in such ECL cell proliferations needs to be investigated further.
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