Open Access Research article

Expression of the Na+/l- symporter (NIS) is markedly decreased or absent in gastric cancer and intestinal metaplastic mucosa of Barrett esophagus

Áron Altorjay1, Orsolya Dohán2, Anna Szilágyi3, Monika Paroder2, Irene L Wapnir4 and Nancy Carrasco2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, St. George University Teaching Hospital H-8000 Székesfehérvár, Hungary

2 Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA

3 Department of Pathology, St. George University Teaching Hospital H-8000 Székesfehérvár, Hungary

4 Department of Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305-5655, USA

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BMC Cancer 2007, 7:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-7-5

Published: 10 January 2007



The sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) is a plasma membrane glycoprotein that mediates iodide (I-) transport in the thyroid, lactating breast, salivary glands, and stomach. Whereas NIS expression and regulation have been extensively investigated in healthy and neoplastic thyroid and breast tissues, little is known about NIS expression and function along the healthy and diseased gastrointestinal tract.


Thus, we investigated NIS expression by immunohistochemical analysis in 155 gastrointestinal tissue samples and by immunoblot analysis in 17 gastric tumors from 83 patients.


Regarding the healthy Gl tract, we observed NIS expression exclusively in the basolateral region of the gastric mucin-producing epithelial cells. In gastritis, positive NIS staining was observed in these cells both in the presence and absence of Helicobacter pylori. Significantly, NIS expression was absent in gastric cancer, independently of its histological type. Only focal faint NIS expression was detected in the direct vicinity of gastric tumors, i.e., in the histologically intact mucosa, the expression becoming gradually stronger and linear farther away from the tumor. Barrett mucosa with junctional and fundic-type columnar metaplasia displayed positive NIS staining, whereas Barrett mucosa with intestinal metaplasia was negative. NIS staining was also absent in intestinalized gastric polyps.


That NIS expression is markedly decreased or absent in case of intestinalization or malignant transformation of the gastric mucosa suggests that NIS may prove to be a significant tumor marker in the diagnosis and prognosis of gastric malignancies and also precancerous lesions such as Barrett mucosa, thus extending the medical significance of NIS beyond thyroid disease.