Neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) functions as an axonal guidance molecule in the developing nervous system, and recent work has identified NRP-1 up-regulation in several cancers, including neuroblastomas and breast carcinoma. We examined for the first time NRP-1 expression in a large variety of gastrointestinal carcinomas and precursor lesions to determine whether NRP-1 up-regulation correlated with invasive growth in this system. Protein expression and localization of NRP-1 were studied by immunolabeling and semi-quantification in >300 dysplastic, invasive, and metastatic lesions of the gastrointestinal tract, and confirmation of NRP-1 protein expression was performed by Western blot analysis on pancreatic cancer cell lines. NRP-1 expression was limited within normal tissues of the gastrointestinal tract, with prominent labeling present only in endothelial cells, pancreatic islet cells, and the most apical colonic epithelium. Invasive cancer of the esophagus, gallbladder, ampulla of Vater, pancreas (endocrine and exocrine), and colon, however, all demonstrated striking NRP-1 expression. NRP-1 was also identified in precursor lesions of gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas, such as Barrett esophagus and colorectal adenomas. Within the spectrum of precursor lesions, a progressive increase in both intensity land area of expression was evident during histologic progression from low-grade to high-grade dysplasia. Notably, the most intense up-regulation of NRP-1 was apparent at or around the point of invasion, with focal expression of NRP-1 at levels equivalent to the invasive cancer (2- to 3-fold increase). Prominent labeling for NRP-1 was apparent in primary invasive cancers, liver metastases, and a subset of lymph node metastases, with a 2- to 3-fold increase of NRP-1 over dysplastic lesions. We conclude that increased expression of NRP-1 occurs in gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas and in a subset of high-grade precursor lesions. This up-regulation appears to parallel invasive behavior and may therefore be used as a potential marker for cancer aggressiveness in this system.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine