Constitutive activation of the gastrin-releasing peptide receptor expressed by the nonmalignant human colon epithelial cell line NCM460

J Clin Invest. 1997 Nov 15;100(10):2530-7. doi: 10.1172/JCI119795.


Gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) causes multiple effects in humans by activating a specific heptaspanning receptor. Within the gastrointestinal tract, GRP receptors (GRP-R) are not normally expressed by mucosal epithelial cells except for those lining the gastric antrum. In contrast, recent studies have shown that up to 40% of resected colon cancers aberrantly express this receptor. This is important because the GRP-R can cause the proliferation of many, but not all, tissues in which it is expressed. Since GRP and other agonists are not known to exist in the colonic lumen, it has not been clear how or even if GRP-R expression in colon cancer contributes to cell proliferation. To evaluate the functional consequence of GRP-R expression on colonic epithelium, we transfected the recently isolated nonmalignant human colon epithelial cell line NCM460 with the cDNA for this receptor. All NCM460 cell lines expressing varying numbers of GRP-R bound selected agonists and antagonists indistinguishably from receptors expressed by other human tissues. Furthermore GRP-R-expressing transfected cell lines, but not wild-type NCM460 cells, proliferated independently of serum or other growth factors. Further evaluation revealed that GRP-R in these cells tonically stimulated G alpha q/11, resulting in increased phospholipase C activation. Since transfected cells do not secrete GRP, nor is their growth influenced by exposure to receptor-specific antagonists, these data indicate that GRP-R ectopically expressed by NCM460 cells are constitutively active. This report provides the first evidence of mutation-independent heptaspanning receptor constitutive activation resulting in cell proliferation, and identifies a potential mechanism whereby the GRP-R may act as an oncogene in human colon cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bombesin / analogs & derivatives
  • Bombesin / metabolism
  • Bombesin / pharmacology
  • Bradykinin / pharmacology
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line
  • Colon
  • Enzyme Activation
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gastrin-Releasing Peptide / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Neurokinin B / analogs & derivatives
  • Neurokinin B / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Bombesin / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Bombesin / physiology*
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Transfection
  • Type C Phospholipases / metabolism


  • Receptors, Bombesin
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Gastrin-Releasing Peptide
  • Neurokinin B
  • neuromedin B
  • Type C Phospholipases
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Bombesin
  • Bradykinin