Objective The majority of ghrelin producing cells (GPC) are present in the fundic gland of the stomach and recognized as X/A like cells. The detailed distribution of GPC in the stomach is still unknown in healthy and pathological subjects. Methods We investigated the detailed distribution of GPC in the stomach, especially in relation with chronic gastritis, using surgical specimens from 12 patients with early gastric cancer. Either the anterior or posterior half of the whole stomach, which was a counterpart of the tumor bearing side, was subjected for immunohistochemistry of ghrelin, and the number of total GPC were semi quantitatively evaluated as GPC score. GPC score was compared with the degree of chronic gastritis, serum ghrelin concentration and body weight. Results GPC was not observed in the pyloric gland, but heterogeneously distributed in the fundic gland mainly in upper body and the greater curvature. The GPC score showed about nine-fold difference, which correlated well with the degree of chronic gastritis by Sydney score (r =-0.84, P < 0.001). The serum ghrelin concentration was basically determined by the GPC score (r = 0.75, P = 0.0047); however, the obese patients showed low serum ghrelin concentration in spite of the presence of abundant GPCs. In the low GPC score patients, serum ghrelin was constantly low regardless of their body weight. Conclusions GPC was inversely correlated with progression of chronic gastritis. Its quantification using immunohistochemistry of the whole stomach was useful to comprehensively evaluate ghrelin profile.
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