Background: In adult humans, the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) receptor is expressed only in the granulosa cells of the ovary and the Sertoli cells of the testis. It is minimally expressed by the endothelial cells of gonadal blood vessels.
Methods: We used immunohistochemical and immunoblotting techniques involving four separate FSH-receptor-specific monoclonal antibodies that recognize different FSH receptor epitopes and in situ hybridization to detect FSH receptor in tissue samples from patients with a wide range of tumors. Immunoelectron microscopy was used to detect FSH receptor in mouse tumors.
Results: In all 1336 patients examined, FSH receptor was expressed by endothelial cells in tumors of all grades, including early T1 tumors. The tumors were located in the prostate, breast, colon, pancreas, urinary bladder, kidney, lung, liver, stomach, testis, and ovary. In specimens obtained during surgery performed to remove tumors, the FSH receptor was not expressed in the normal tissues located more than 10 mm from the tumors. The tumor lymphatic vessels did not express FSH receptor. The endothelial cells that expressed FSH receptor were located at the periphery of the tumors in a layer that was approximately 10 mm thick; this layer extended both into and outside of the tumor. Immunoelectron microscopy in mice with xenograft tumors, after perfusion with anti–FSH-receptor antibodies coupled to colloidal gold, showed that the FSH receptor is exposed on the luminal endothelial surface and can bind and internalize circulating ligands.
Conclusions: FSH receptor is selectively expressed on the surface of the blood vessels of a wide range of tumors. (Funded by INSERM.).