Bile acids are potential carcinogens in gastrointestinal cancer, and interact with nuclear and membrane receptors to initiate downstream signaling. The effect of TGR5 [also known as G protein-coupled bile acid receptor 1 (GPBAR1)] on cancer progression is dependent on the tissue where it is activated. In this report, the function of TGR5 expression in cancer was studied using a bioinformatic approach. TGR5 expression in ampullary adenocarcinoma and normal duodenum was compared by western blotting, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, and immunohistochemistry (IHC). High GPBAR1 gene expression was found to be an indicator of worse prognosis in gastric and breast cancer patients, and an indication of better prognosis in ovarian cancer patients. The level of GPBAR1 gene expression was higher in bile-acid exposed cancer than in other types of cancer, and was increased in well-differentiated ampullary adenocarcinoma. Negative, weak or mild expression of TGR5 was correlated with younger age, higher plasma level of total/direct bilirubin, higher plasma concentration of CA-125, advanced tumor stage and advanced AJCC TNM stage. The disease-specific survival rate was highest in ampullary adenocarcinoma patients with high TGR5 expression and high total bilirubin level. In summary, TGR5 functions as a tumor-suppressor in patients with ampullary adenocarcinoma and preoperative hyperbilirubinemia. Further study of the suppressive mechanism may provide a new therapeutic option for patients with ampullary adenocarcinoma.
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