Oxytocin is a growth factor for Kaposi's sarcoma cells: Evidence of endocrine-immunological cross-talk

Paola Cassoni, Anna Sapino, Silvia Deaglio, Benedetta Bussolati, Marco Volante, Luca Munaron, Adriana Albini, Antonietta Torrisi, Gianni Bussolati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oxytocin receptors (OTRs) are expressed in numerous tissues, including human normal endothelium. Here we investigated the expression and biological significance of OTRs in Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), an intensely angioproliferative disease of possible vascular origin with a prominent inflammatory component. Immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization studies showed OTR expression in tumor cells of cutaneous classic and AIDS-related KS lesions. OTR mRNA and protein were also detected on cultured KS-IMM spindle cells by reverse transcription-PCR and immunofluorescence procedures. In these cells, OTR expression was upregulated by the supernatants of resting CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes through a still unidentified factor. Functionality of OTRs was demonstrated because OT treatment of KS-IMM cells led to a significant increase in cell proliferation, coupled to the increase of intracellular calcium, but did not effect cell migration in vitro or angiogenesis in vivo. In addition, we demonstrated that CD4+ and CD8+ cells produce OT themselves, thus constituting an intralesional source of peptide. These results indicate that: (a) functioning OTRs are expressed in KS cells and modulated by the inflammatory counterpart of KS lesions; (b) via OTRs, OT stimulates KS-IMM cell proliferation and could, therefore, be considered a new possible relevant growth factor involved in KS progression; and finally (c) the evidence of OT synthesis by CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes strongly suggests the existence of local endocrine-immunological cross-talk in Kaposi's sarcoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2406-2413
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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