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Using immunohistochemical techniques a subpopulation of endocrine cells in the human
oxyntic mucosa was found to react with antibodies against basic fibroblast growth
factor (bFGF). These cells were identified as histamine-producing enterochromaffin-like
(ECL) cells and, to a minor extent, serotonin-producing enterochromaffin cells. Basic
fibroblast growth factor immunoreactive cells were most frequently found in hyperplastic
lesions of ECL cells occurring in hypergastrinemic patients (20 of 27 cases) and in
ECL cell carcinoid tumors (10 of 17 cases). In addition, bFGF mRNA was demonstrated
by Northern blot analysis of homogenates from two gastric carcinoids cytologically
characterized as pure ECL cell tumors. Although the function of bFGF in normal cells
remains unknown, its production in neoplastic conditions may be responsible for the
associated desmoplastic and angioblastic proliferations. Moreover, secretion of bFGF
by hyperplastic or neoplastic ECL cells may contribute to the circulating levels of
the bFGF-like mitogenic factor identified in patients affected by multiple endocrine
neoplasia type 1 syndrome.