Objectives: Neutral endopeptidase 24.11 (NEP)/CD10 is a cell-surface peptidase that degrades various bioactive peptides including endothelin-1 (ET-1). This enzyme is known to play a role in maintaining ET-1-regulated vascular homeostasis in the normal human endometrium. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the expression and localization of NEP and ET-1 in neoplastic endometria, and also to clarify the correlation of their expression with the tumor grade of endometrial carcinoma. Methods: Immunohistochemical analysis for NEP and ET-1 expression was performed on paraffin-embedded tissue sections of 7 normal endometria (after menopause), 5 atypical endometrial hyperplasias (AEH), and 32 endometrial endometrioid adenocarcinomas. Results: In normal endometrium and AEH, NEP immunoreactivity was detected in stromal cells, but not in glandular cells. In contrast, ET-1 immunoreactivity was detected in both glandular and stromal cells. In the stromal cells of grade 1 endometrial adenocarcinoma, NEP was detected at high or moderate quantities. However, significantly decreased NEP immunoreactivity was observed in the stromal cells of grade 2 and 3 adenocarcinomas. However, NEP was not immunostained in adenocarcinoma cells except for the lesions of squamous differentiation. ET-1 immunoreactivity was weakly detected in the stromal cells of grade 1 adenocarcinoma, but the intensity of ET-1 staining increased with advancing tumor grade. The ratio of the staining scores of stromal ET-1 to stromal NEP was positively correlated with the tumor grade. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that NEP expression in the stromal cells of endometrial adenocarcinoma is downregulated, while stromal ET-1 is upregulated, with increasing tumor grade. The present findings also suggest that NEP may play a role in the regulation of neoplastic transformation, tumor progression, and differentiation in endometrial neoplasms, possibly by degrading certain peptide growth factors such as ET-1.

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