Expression of RET and its ligand complexes, GDNF/GFRalpha-1 and NTN/GFRalpha-2, in medullary thyroid carcinomas

T Frisk, F Farnebo, J Zedenius, L Grimelius, A Hoog, G Wallin, C Larsson
2000 European Journal of Endocrinology  
Objective: Mutations in the RET proto-oncogene are found in about one third of sporadic medullary thyroid carcinomas (MTCs), mostly affecting codon 918. Glial cell line derived neurotropic factor (GDNF) and its membrane-bound GDNF family receptor alpha (GFRalpha-1), as well as neurturin (NTN) and its membrane-bound receptor GFRalpha-2 form a complex with the RET product, a receptor tyrosine kinase, resulting in downstream signaling to the nucleus. Design: To elucidate the role of these RET
more » ... ds in MTC tumorigenesis, their expression was determined in 15 MTC samples, one papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) and three normal thyroid tissue specimens. Methods: The mRNA expression of RET, GDNF, GFRalpha-1, NTN and GFRalpha-2 was investigated by mRNA in situ hybridization, and confirmed by reverse transcription-PCR analysis. Results: None of the five genes was expressed in the normal thyroids or in the PTC. All MTCs showed expression of RET, 13 expressed GDNF, 12 expressed GFRalpha-1 and 9 expressed NTN and GFRalpha-2. In 7 of the tumors RET, GDNF and GFRalpha-1 were expressed at high levels, and in five of these seven tumors NTN and GFRalpha-2 genes were also expressed at high levels. The high level of expression was preferentially seen in tumor cells adjacent to stroma and connective tissue. All MTCs without expression of the RET ligands harbored the RET codon 918 mutation. Conclusions: The results suggest that this signaling pathway is important for MTC development, and that it may be activated by expression of the RET ligand complexes by the tumor cells themselves.
doi:10.1530/eje.0.1420643 pmid:10822229 fatcat:xyefg3jrynd55nphyiftpqcdlm