Expression of somatostatin receptors in normal, inflamed, and neoplastic human gastrointestinal tissues

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1994 Sep 15;733:122-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1994.tb17262.x.


The multiple actions of somatostatin are mediated by specific membrane-bound receptors present in all somatostatin target tissues, such as brain, pituitary, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, and kidney. For instance, in the human gastrointestinal tract, three different types of tissue compartments express somatostatin receptors: the gastrointestinal mucosa, the peripheral nervous system, and the gut-associated lymphoid tissue, where the receptors are preferentially located in germinal centers. In all these cases, somatostatin binding is of high affinity and specific for bioactive somatostatin analogues. Somatostatin receptors are also expressed in pathological states, such as cancers. A particular abundance is found in neuroendocrine tumors of the gastrointestinal tract. Ninety percent of the carcinoids and a majority of islet cell carcinomas, including their metastases, usually have a high density of somatostatin receptors. Several different somatostatin-receptor subtypes can be expressed by these tumors, the SSTR2 subtype being the most frequently and abundantly expressed. The somatostatin receptors in tumors are identified with in vitro-binding methods, molecular biology techniques, or in vivo-imaging techniques; the latter allow the precise localization of the tumors and their metastases in the patients. Because somatostatin receptors in human gastroenteropancreatic tumors are functional, their identification can be used to predict the therapeutical efficacy of octreotide to inhibit excessive hormone release. Of differential diagnostic importance is the fact that other pathological processes in the gastrointestinal tract may be associated with a high density of somatostatin receptors. Ninety percent of lymphomas, including those with intestinal involvement express somatostatin receptors. Furthermore, a moderate number of colorectal carcinomas contain somatostatin receptors, whereas exocrine pancreatic carcinomas do not. Finally, an increased expression of SS receptors in nonneoplastic conditions, such as in intestinal veins in inflammatory bowel disease, has been recently observed. These observations demonstrate the ability of the human body to regulate SS receptors in a wide number of tissues and conditions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoid Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoid Tumor / pathology
  • Digestive System / cytology
  • Digestive System / metabolism*
  • Digestive System / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / metabolism*
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / analysis
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / biosynthesis*
  • Reference Values
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Somatostatin