Dendritic cells (DC) are professional antigen presenting cells (APC) whose proliferation and functional differentiation can be induced by hematopoietic growth factors including GM-CSF and FLT3 ligand (FL). Colorectal cancers are known to be infiltrated by dendritic cells (DC) and neoplastic cells have been shown to produce GM-CSF. In this work we investigated FLT3 ligand (FL) gene expression and protein production in human colorectal cancer cell lines and clinical tumor specimens. Using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), 6 out of 6 established tumor lines were found to express to variable extents FL gene. In 1 of them, SW480, FL immunoreactivity could be observed by taking advantage of specific antibodies. In contrast, soluble FL could not be detected in any culture supernatant. FLT3 receptor (FR) gene was not expressed and exogenous addition to the cultures of recombinant FL (rFL) did not affect the proliferation of the tumor lines. FL gene expression was investigated using a densitometry-assisted, semiquantitative RT-PCR in clinical tumor specimens. Specific FL gene transcripts were amplified from 12 of 12 surgical samples. In these cases, FL gene expression of significantly lower intensity was also detected in healthy mucosa sampled in the vicinity (2 cm) or at a distance (10 cm) from neoplastic outgrowth. Immunohistochemical studies identified FL-positive cancer cells in 5 of 5 cases tested. No positivity was detected in healthy mucosa epithelia at a distance from the tumor or in stromal cells. FL content in preoperative sera from colorectal cancer patients (n = 13) did not exceed the levels detected in healthy donors (</= 100 pg/ml).
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.