Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) is secreted by the hypothalamus and upon binding to specific GHRH receptors in the pituitary stimulates growth hormone production and release. In addition to its neuroendocrine action GHRH plays a role in tumorigenesis. Consistently with this latter role, the splice variant 1 (SV1) of GHRH receptor, which is widely expressed in non-pituitary normal tissues and cancers, can mediate the proliferative effects of GHRH and even in the absence of GHRH is capable of eliciting mitogenic signals in the tissues in which it is expressed. The aim of the present study was to investigate the expression of GHRH and its tumoral receptor SV1 in primary human melanomas and dysplastic nevi by immunohistochemistry. None of the specimens tested expressed GHRH. Only 1 of 12 (8%) dysplastic nevi expressed SV1 but 14 of 23 (61%) melanomas showed moderate or strong staining for SV1 (association p < 0.005). This is the first report demonstrating the involvement of SV1 in the pathogenesis of melanomas. Our work implies that the progression from a state of dysplasia into malignancy is accompanied by expression of SV1 receptor. Our findings also suggest that treatment with GHRH antagonists should be further explored for the management of malignant melanomas.
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