1. Cell and Cancer Biology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA;
2. Laboratory of Metabolism, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.
Achaete-scute homologue-1 or ASCL1 (MASH1, hASH1) plays roles in neural development and pulmonary neuroendocrine (NE) differentiation, and it is expressed in certain lung cancers. This study was aimed to assess whether and/or how ASCL1 plays a role in 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK)-induced pulmonary NE hyperplasia and carcinogenesis in hamsters. Hamsters were injected 3 times weekly with either NNK or solvent alone (control) for treatment periods of 6 and 24 weeks, both without and with 6-week recovery. Immunohistochemical analysis was carried out to examine the expressions of ASCL1, CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide), secretoglobin SCGB1A1 (club [Clara] cell specific 10 kD protein, CC10, CCSP), synaptophysin (SYP), and PCNA (proliferating cell nuclear antigen). The number of ASCL1-expressing NE foci per airway increased from 0.8 in controls to 1.6 and 2.0 during NNK exposure for 6 and 24 weeks, respectively, and the number of cells per foci doubled after NNK exposure. Most ASCL1-expressing cells in NEBs (neuroepithelial bodies) were also CGRP immunoreactive; NNK enhanced this co-expression with CGRP, a NE marker with known proliferation-promoting properties. NNK also increased PCNA expression within NE foci. NNK-induced tumors showed no immunoreactivity for NE markers. This study confirms ASCL1 as an excellent marker for pulmonary NE cells and demonstrates CGRP co-expression in ASCL1-positive NEB cells participating in NNK-induced NE hyperplasia.
Keywords: lung, ASCL1, CGRP, neuroendocrine hyperplasia, NNK.