• Midkine;
  • Suicide gene;
  • HSV-TK;
  • Esophageal cancer;
  • Gene therapy

We have examined the expression of midkine (MK), a neurotrophic factor with heparin-binding activity, in human esophageal cancer cells. Seven esophageal cell lines tested expressed the transcript and 8 out of 14 human esophageal tumor specimens were positively stained with anti-MK antibody, while surrounding normal esophageal tissues in these specimens were not stained. The 5′-flanking, 2.3 kb genomic region of the MK gene was shown to drive the transcription of a reporter gene in the esophageal cell lines in a cis acting manner. Forced expression in esophageal cancer cells of herpes simplex virus-thymidine kinase gene mediated by the flanking region of the MK gene conferred sensitivity to a prodrug, ganciclovir. The 5′-upstream region of the MK gene thus possesses putative promoter activity which can be used for suicide gene-based gene therapy for esophageal cancer.