B. Bonetti, L. Panzeri, M. Carner, G. Zamboni, N. Rizzuto & G. Moretto (1997) Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology23, 380–386
Human neoplastic Schwann cells: changes in the expression of neurotrophins and their low-affinity receptor p75
Neurotrophins are known to influence Schwann cells during development and to promote peripheral nerve regeneration after axonal damage. In neoplastic conditions, Schwann cells from experimentally-induced schwannomas appear to retain their responsiveness to nerve growth factor (NGF), although the role of neurotrophins in the neoplastic process is poorly understood. In this study, human neoplastic Schwann cells (five cases of acoustic schwannoma and two cases of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours [MPNST]) were investigated for the expression in situ of molecules of the neurotrophin system. In particular, we studied the 75 kDa low-affinity receptor (p75) and the mRNA for its ligands, NGF and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3). By immunohistochemistry, the p75 receptor was found to be present at high levels in Schwann cells from acoustic schwannomas, whereas it was very weak or absent in MPNST. Messenger RNA for NGF and NT-3 was detected by reverse transcriptase in situ polymerase chain reaction technique and showed the same fluctuation of p75, being up-regulated in acoustic schwannomas and very weak or absent in MPNST. In normal non-neoplastic tissue, no detectable amounts of either ligand or receptor were observed. Our results indicate that changes in the expression of neurotrophins and their p75 receptor occurred during the neoplastic transformation of Schwann cells. In benign schwannomas, such changes are likely to reflect the loss of axonal contact, while in MPNST they may be related to a complete derangement of cell machinery in the tumour cells.