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Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) exerts proliferative activities in thyrocytes upon binding to its tyrosine kinase receptor c-met and is also expressed in benign thyroid nodules as well as in Hashimotoâ€™s thyroiditis (HT). The simultaneous expression of HGF/c-met and three trasducers of tyrosine kinase receptors (STAT3, PI3K, RHO) in both the nodular and extranodular tissues were studied by immunohistochemistry in 50 benign thyroid nodules (NGs), 25 of which associated with HT. The ligand/tyrosine kinase receptor pair HGF/c-met and the two trasducers PI3K and RHO were expressed in NGs, regardless of association with HT, with a higher positive cases percentage in HT-associated NGs compared to not HT-associated NGs (25/25 or 100% vs 7/25 or 28%; P<0.001). HGF, PI3K and RHO expression was only stromal (fibroblasts and endothelial cells), in all 32 reactive NGs, while c-met localization was consistently epithelial (thyrocyes). ImmuÂnoreactions for HGF, c-met, PI3K and RHO were also apparent in the extra-nodular tissue of HT specimens, where HGF and PI3K were expressed not only in stromal cells but also in thyrocyes along with the c-met. Finally, a positive correlation was observed between the proportion of HGF, c-met, PI3K follicular cells and the grade of lymphoid aggregates in HT. In conclusion, HGF, c-met, PI3K are much more frequently and highly expressed in HT compared to NGs, and among all NGs in those present in the context of HT. A paracrine effect of HFG/c-met on nodule development, based on the prevalent stromal expression, may be suggested along with a major role of HGF/c-met and PI3K in HT. Finally, the expression of such molecules in HT may be regulated by lymphoid infiltrate.
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