Expression of functional folate receptors by human parathyroid cells

Surgery. 2013 Dec;154(6):1385-93; discussion 1393. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2013.06.045. Epub 2013 Oct 25.


Background: Human pituitary adenomas express folate receptors (FR); therefore, we hypothesized that parathyroid (PT) tumors also might express FR, whereas normal human thyroids might not. The purpose of our study was to characterize the functionality of FRs on human PT tumors, with the goal of developing an imaging tool that would concentrate in PT more than in the thyroid.

Methods: Human PTs and thyroids were evaluated for FR expression by immunohistochemistry. Expression of genes for FRα and FRβ was measured with the Illumina Human HT-12 Expression Bead Chips and verified by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. Folate incorporation by PT cells versus normal thyroid cells was determined by incubation with (99m)Technetium ((99m)Tc)(CO)3-folate and (99m)Tc-Etarfolatide, and uptake was determined by gamma counting. Specific targeting of FRs was demonstrated by blocking with cold folate. A549 cells and Jurkat cells served as FR-negative controls, and KB cells and HeLa cells were FR-positive controls.

Results: On immunohistochemistry and Western blotting, human PT cells expressed FRs, whereas human thyroid cells did not. The FRα gene was expressed in all PTs analyzed, and the FRβ gene was expressed by most. Uptake of (99m)Tc(CO)3-folate was increased in PT cells versus thyroid cells. There was dose-dependent uptake of (99m)Tc-etarfolatide, and uptake was inhibited by preincubation with cold folate, confirming FR-mediated binding.

Conclusion: This is the first report of the expression and functionality of FRs on human PT cells. These findings suggest that (99m)Tc-folate holds potential for localization of PT tumors preoperatively and their treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetulus
  • Folate Receptor 1 / genetics*
  • Folate Receptor 1 / metabolism*
  • Folate Receptor 2 / genetics*
  • Folate Receptor 2 / metabolism*
  • Folic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Folic Acid / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • KB Cells
  • Organotechnetium Compounds / metabolism
  • Parathyroid Glands / diagnostic imaging
  • Parathyroid Glands / metabolism*
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / metabolism
  • Thyroid Gland / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism


  • FOLR1 protein, human
  • Folate Receptor 1
  • Folate Receptor 2
  • Organotechnetium Compounds
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Folic Acid