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PL Jeffery, AC Herington, and LK Chopin

This study has examined the expression of two new facets of the growth hormone axis, the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R) and its recently identified putative natural ligand ghrelin, in prostate cancer cells. GHS-R 1a and 1b isoforms and ghrelin mRNA expression were detected by RT-PCR in the ALVA-41, LNCaP, DU145 and PC3 prostate cancer cell lines. A normal prostate cDNA library expressed GHS-R1a, but not the 1b isoform or ghrelin. Immunohistochemical staining for the GHS-R 1a isoform and ghrelin was positive in the four cell lines studied. PC3 cells showed increased cell proliferation in vitro in response to ghrelin to levels 33% above untreated controls, implying a potential tumour-promoting role for ghrelin in this tissue. This study is the first to demonstrate the co-expression of the GHS-R and ghrelin in prostate cancer cells. It is also the first study to provide evidence that a previously unrecognised autocrine/paracrine pathway involving ghrelin, that is capable of stimulating growth, exists in prostate cancer.