Background & Aims: We recently reported that transgenic mice overexpressing progastrin were at a higher risk for developing colon cancers in response to azoxymethane (AOM), whereas mice overexpressing gastrin-17 were at a reduced risk. To examine further the role of gastrins in colon carcinogenesis, we generated gastrin gene knockout mice (GAS-KO). Methods: The height and proliferative index (PI) of colonic crypts were similar in GAS-KO and wild-type (WT) mice, suggesting that the absence of gastrins in GAS-KO mice did not significantly affect the growth of colonic mucosa. GAS-KO and WT mice were treated with AOM for 3-4 weeks; control mice received saline. Results: Colonic proliferation in response to AOM was significantly increased in GAS-KO vs. WT mice. Aberrant crypt foci (ACFs) were similarly increased significantly by ∼2-5fold in GAS-KO vs. WT mice after 2 weeks of AOM treatment. Female GAS-KO mice developed adenomas (Ads) and adenocarcinomas (AdCAs) at earlier times (∼10 months) than the male GAS-KO mice and the male and female WT mice (∼12 months). The total numbers of Ads and AdCAs were significantly higher in GAS-KO than in WT mice. Conclusions: These results suggest the novel possibility that loss of gastrin expression (and hence amidated gastrins) significantly increases susceptibility to colon carcinogenesis in response to AOM. Previous studies with FVB/N transgenic mice similarly suggested a protective role of amidated gastrins against colon carcinogenesis, which supports the present findings of an increase in colon carcinogenesis in GAS-KO mice lacking normal physiological levels of amidated gastrins.
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