Gastrin releasing peptide in human neuroendocrine tumours

J Pathol. 1985 Dec;147(4):237-44. doi: 10.1002/path.1711470402.


Neuroendocrine tumours of the lung and gut are known to possess bombesin-like immunoreactivity. The recent observation that gastrin releasing peptide (GRP), a 27 amino acid peptide isolated from the porcine intestine, may be the mammalian analogue of bombesin led us to look for this peptide in a variety of human neoplasms. Formalin-fixed tissues from 85 tumours were examined by the immunoperoxidase technique, using specific antisera to the GRP molecule (1-27) and the GRP fragment (1-16). Intense cytoplasmic GRP immunoreactivity was seen in thyroid medullary carcinomas (3/3), carcinoids of lung, pancreas, and intestine (22/36), and paragangliomas (2/3). Less frequent staining was present in pulmonary small cell (oat cell) carcinomas (1/8) and pituitary adenomas (1/6). Complete absence of immunoreactivity was observed in three phaeochromocytomas, five Merkel cell tumours, six neuroblastomas and 15 non-neuroendocrine tumours. Normal neuroendocrine cells of the thyroid (C-cells) and bronchial mucosa (Kulchitsky cells) exhibited GRP immunoreactivity; nerve fibres from all sites failed to demonstrate staining for GRP. In each positive case, the pattern of staining for GRP (1-27) and GRP (1-16) was identical, although the GRP (1-16) immunostaining was weaker. These findings indicate that bombesin immunoreactivity in human neuroendocrine cells and tumours is attributable to GRP-like molecules and that GRP is a useful marker of neuroendocrine differentiation in many tumours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / metabolism
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bombesin / metabolism
  • Carcinoid Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / metabolism
  • Gastrin-Releasing Peptide
  • Gastrins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neurosecretory Systems / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Pheochromocytoma / metabolism
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Gastrins
  • Peptides
  • Gastrin-Releasing Peptide
  • Bombesin