Involvement of BCL-2 Oncoprotein in the Development of Enterochromaffin-like Cell Gastric Carcinoids

Cinzia Azzoni, Claudio Doglioni, Giuseppe Viale, Gianfranco Delle Fave, Michele De Boni, Pietro Caruana, Gabriella Ferraro, Cesare Bordi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To evaluate the involvement of the apoptosis-suppressing protein BCL-2 in the gastrin-dependent mechanism of induction of gastric enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cell carcinoids, the endocrine cells of the oxyntic mucosa were immunohistochemically investigated in (a) 10 normogastrinemic subjects with histologically normal gastric mucosa; (b) 22 patients with endocrine cell hyperplasia and affected by hypergastrinemic conditions with different risk of gastric carcinoid development, such as sporadic Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (sZES; n = 9), ZES associated with multiple endocrine neoplasia-1 (MEN-1; n = 4), and atrophic fundal gastritis (AFG; n = 9); (c) 14 patients with ECL cell gastric carcinoids accounting for a total of 31 tumors investigated. In the normal oxyntic mucosa, BCL-2 was consistently expressed by a subset of endocrine cells accounting for 50.0% (median; range, 24.6-74.0%) of the total number of endocrine cells immunostained for chromogranin A (CgA) in consecutive sections. BCL-2-immunoreactive cells were located mostly in the middle mucosal layer, suggesting a role for the protein during downward migration of maturing endocrine cells. No BCL-2 immunoreactivity was found in other specialized gastric epithelial cells. Expression of BCL-2 by hyperplastic oxyntic endocrine cells (mostly ECL cells) varied in parallel with the risk of carcinoid development. In fact, the ratio of BCL-2- to CgA-immunoreactive cells was reduced (median, 4.6%; p <0.0001; range, 0.9-42.0%) in sZES, a condition showing virtually no risk, unchanged (median, 55.6%; range, 29.4-83.8%) in cases of MEN-1/ZES with intermediate risk, and increased (median, 87.6%; p <0.014; range, 48.8-199.4%) in cases of AFG, a condition at the highest risk of carcinoid. In ECL cell carcinoids, BCL-2 expression varied markedly from one tumor to another even in the same patient and was low or absent in most cases. In both hyperplastic and neoplastic ECL cells, an inverse relation between BCL-2 expression and CgA immunoreactivity, that is, the cell granule content, was found. These results suggest that BCL-2 expression by hyperplastic ECL cells is independent of the influence of serum gastrin and may contribute to the development of ECL cell carcinoid tumors by extending cell exposure to oncogenic factors. Once a carcinoid tumor is established, BCL-2 expression becomes inconsistent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-441
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1996


  • Atrophic gastritis
  • BCL-2
  • ECL cells
  • Gastric carcinoids
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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