Expression of cortistatin and MrgX2, a specific cortistatin receptor, in human neuroendocrine tissues and related tumours

J Pathol. 2005 Nov;207(3):336-45. doi: 10.1002/path.1839.


Cortistatin (CST), a novel hormone originally described in the rat, mouse, and human cerebral cortex, displays structural and functional similarities to somatostatin (SRIF). CST binds to all five somatostatin receptors and, differently from SRIF, also binds to MrgX2, which has recently been identified as its specific receptor. Little is known about the distribution of CST and MrgX2 in peripheral non-tumour and neoplastic tissues. The aim of the present study was therefore to determine by immunohistochemistry and mRNA analysis (RT-PCR) the distribution of CST and MrgX2 in 56 human non-tumour and 108 tumour tissues, with special reference to neuroendocrine tissue types. Despite the high level of CST mRNA expression in non-tumour and tumour (both neuroendocrine and non-neuroendocrine) tissues, the presence of immunoreactive CST was confirmed in a subset of gastroenteropancreatic, parathyroid, and pituitary non-tumour cells only, and showed a predominantly focal pattern in most neuroendocrine tumours. Co-localization experiments in the gastroenteropancreatic system demonstrated that the normal CST-producing cells are delta cells, while in the adenohypophysis no preferential co-localization of CST with any of the pituitary hormones was observed. MrgX2 mRNA was variably detected in the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, lung, gastroenteropancreatic tract, testis, and ovary, and was negative in the cerebral cortex, parathyroid, and adrenal, as well as in a variety of tumour types. Conversely, immunolocalization of MrgX2 protein was restricted to neurohypophysis and testis, whilst all tumours analysed were negative. A possible explanation for the discrepancy between RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry is that MrgX2 protein was widely detected in blood vessels, scattered lymphocytes, and gastrointestinal ganglia in both normal and neoplastic samples. The findings demonstrate a selective distribution of CST in normal and neoplastic neuroendocrine tissues, suggesting that CST might have a broader functional role than previously assumed, whereas possible autocrine/paracrine actions via its recently described specific receptor MrgX2 are restricted to selected tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Neoplasm Proteins / analysis*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis*
  • Neuropeptides / analysis*
  • Neuropeptides / immunology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / chemistry*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / analysis*
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / analysis*
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods


  • MRGPRX2 protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide
  • Receptors, Somatostatin
  • cortistatin