Expression of c-kit and kit ligand proteins in normal human tissues

A. Lammie, M. Drobnjak, W. Gerald, A. Saad, R. Cote, C. Cordon-Cardo

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235 Scopus citations


The c-kit receptor and its cognate ligand, KL, play a critical role in melanogenesis, gametogenesis, and hematopoiesis. Studies on the expression of c-kit and KL have been primarily focused on mouse development. We undertook the present study to characterize the pattern of expression of these molecules in normal adult human tissues. Using immunohistochemistry and consecutive tissue sections from the same block, we evaluated a variety of well-preserved normal tissues for c-kit and KL microanatomic distribution, c- kit protein was identified in tissue mast cells, melanocytes, glandular epithelial cells of breast, parotid, dermal sweat, and esophageal glands. Scattered c-kit immunoreactivity was also observed for testicular and ovarian interstitial cells. A striking regional distribution of c-kit was detected in the central nervous system, particularly in the cerebellum, hippocampus, and dorsal horn of the spinal cord. KL protein was identified in cells complementary to staining for the receptor, such as glandular myoepithelium of breast and sweat glands. Intense KL immunoreactivity was observed in smooth muscle cells of the bladder, cervix, uterus, and gastrointestinal tract, as well as in striated and cardiac muscle. Strong KL staining was also detected in prostate fibromuscular stroma cells. In the central nervous system, KL expression was confined to Golgi and Purkinje cells in the cerebellum. These results suggest a role for this receptor and its ligand in the maintenance of a variety of fully differentiated tissues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1417-1425
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1994


  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • c-kit
  • kit ligand


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