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A. White, M. F. Stewart, W. E. Farrell, S. R. Crosby, P. M. Lavender, P. R. Twentyman, L. H. Rees and A. J. L. Clark

ABSTRACT

Expression of the RNA coding for the ACTH—β-lipotrophin precursor, pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), has been demonstrated in five human small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines. Using Northern and slot-blot hybridization analysis of RNA and a bovine POMC cDNA as probe, the processed POMC RNA from SCLC cells was found to be approximately 1350 nucleotides in length, which is larger than that found in the normal human pituitary. Expression of the POMC gene was confirmed by measurement of ACTH precursors secreted by the cells, using a novel two-site immunoradiometric assay based on monoclonal antibodies, which directly quantifies both POMC and pro-ACTH but does not recognize ACTH. Levels of POMC in medium accumulated throughout the growth of the cells, in contrast to POMC RNA which showed a relatively constant level of expression. We conclude that human SCLC cell lines are valuable models for studying the aberrant expression and regulation of the human POMC gene.

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P H Watson, A J Watson and A B Hodsman

ABSTRACT

The technique of reverse transcription-PCR for mRNA phenotyping was applied to total RNA isolated from the two compartments of cancellous bone, namely trabecular bone and hematopoitic tissue or marrow. The pattern of gene expression for ten different growth factor ligands and five growth factor receptors was examined in total RNA isolated from the two compartments of cancellous bone of the female rat distal femur. Our results show that transcripts encoding IGF-I, IGF-II, transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), TGF-α, basic fibroblast growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor A and osteocalcin are detectable in samples from both trabeculae and marrow. Expression of epidermal growth factor (EGF) was confined to samples from trabeculae while nerve growth factor expression was only detected in marrow. Transcripts encoding insulin were not detected in any of the bone-derived samples in this study. Samples from cancellous bone trabeculae and marrow both showed evidence of expression of the genes encoding receptors for IGF-I, parathyroid hormone (PTH)/PTH-related protein and insulin. Neither compartment of cancellous bone contained transcripts encoding the receptor for IGF-II. Transcripts encoding the EGF receptor were detected in samples from cancellous bone marrow and not trabeculae as has been previously reported. These patterns of growth factor ligand and receptor gene expression suggest that it is likely that both autocrine and paracrine regulatory circuits are established in cancellous bone. This study also demonstrated the feasibility of assessing the expression of multiple genes from the small samples of total RNA obtained from separated tissues of cancellous bone. This is the first time that growth factor gene expression has been examined in separated trabeculae and marrow from cancellous bone and this approach will allow a more detailed analysis of molecular events in cancellous bone as opposed to whole bone or extracts of isolated and cultured bone cells.

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I Paron, C D’Ambrosio, A Scaloni, M T Berlingieri, P L Pallante, A Fusco, N Bivi, G Tell and G Damante

Tumour suppressor p53 is a transcription factor essential for DNA damage checkpoints during cellular response to stress. Mutations in the p53 gene are the most common genetic alterations found in human tumours; most pathogenetic modifications are missense mutations that abolish the p53 DNA-binding function. In the same cell type, distinct p53 missense mutations may determine different phenotypes. The PC Cl3 cell line retains several markers of thyroid differentiation in vitro. Introduction of the V143A mutant p53 allele, which abolishes the p53 DNA-binding function, leads to loss of differentiation markers as well as TSH dependency for growth. Conversely, PC Cl3 cells transfected with the S392A mutant p53 allele, presenting the mutation located outside the DNA-binding domain, show only loss of TSH dependency for growth. To identify molecular differences existing between PC Cl3 cell lines transformed by the V143A and the S392A mutant alleles, a differential proteomic approach was used. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis analyses indicated that expression of a significant portion of protein species was modified by both p53 mutants. In fact, compared with wild-type PC Cl3 cells, modification of expression in V143A mutant cells occurred in 23.6% of the entire protein species. Conversely, modification of S392A mutant cells affected 14.0% of total proteins. Among these components, 8.3% were common to both mutants. Several of these proteins were identified by mass spectrometry procedures; some proteins, such as HSP90 and T-complex proteins, are already known to be related to p53 function.

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A. E. Wakeling, E. Newboult and S. W. Peters

ABSTRACT

Non-steroidal antioestrogens, such as tamoxifen, inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells. The experiments described here compare and contrast the efficacy of tamoxifen and the 'pure' antioestrogen, ICI 164384, on the inhibition of proliferation of MCF-7 cells.

Previous studies have shown that ICI 164384 has a greater maximal inhibitory effect than conventional antioestrogens on the growth of MCF-7 cells. Both types of compound block progression of cells through the cell cycle in the early G1 phase. These studies have been extended to measure the population distribution of antioestrogen-treated cells by the use of two-parameter flow cytometry. ICI 164384 proved to be more effective than tamoxifen in decreasing the proportion of actively growing cells in an asynchronous population.

In cells grown in the complete absence of exogenous oestrogens, growth was stimulated by oestradiol, insulin, insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) or transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α). The potent metabolite of tamoxifen, trans 4′-hydroxytamoxifen (4′-OHT), alone also stimulated growth, whereas ICI 164384 did not. Oestradiol and insulin added together demonstrated a clear synergistic enhancement of cell growth. Correspondingly, the stimulatory effect of 4′-OHT on growth was magnified in the presence of insulin, and a combination of ICI 164384 with insulin revealed a much weaker stimulatory action of the 'pure' antagonist. For both compounds the interaction with insulin was complex and characterized by a bell-shaped dose—response curve. However, for 4′-OHT at all concentrations in the range 1 pm–1 μm in the presence of insulin, cell numbers were greater than in cultures exposed to insulin alone. This was not the case for ICI 164384 which suggested that differences in efficacy may be due to interactions between oestrogen and growth factor-mediated mechanisms. Furthermore, ICI 164384 was more effective in inhibiting the action of IGF-I and TGF-α alone or in combination, although both antioestrogens produced a partial blockade of growth factor responses in the complete absence of oestradiol.

It is concluded that the difference in efficacy between partial agonist and 'pure' antagonist antioestrogens to inhibit growth in vitro is consistent with the difference in the pharmacological profile of these compounds. The absence of stimulatory activity of ICI 164384 is of particular significance in reducing to a minimum the synergistic interaction between oestrogens and insulin. In addition, the partial blockade of the effect of IGF-I and/or TGF-α by antioestrogens in the complete absence of oestradiol, where ICI 164384 is also more effective than 4′-OHT, suggests that novel mechanisms of growth inhibition may be involved.

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Y. P. Loh, M. G. Castro, F.-J. Zeng and U. Patel-Vaidya

ABSTRACT

Pro-vasopressin mRNA, neurophysin and arginine vasopressin (AVP) were assayed in the mouse anterior pituitary gland, in mouse anterior pituitary cells in culture and in the AtT-20 corticotrophic tumour cell line. Northern blot analysis revealed the presence of an ∼700 base pair pro-vasopressin mRNA in anterior pituitary and AtT-20 cells. Neurophysin, identified by immunoblots, and AVP, identified by high-performance liquid chromatography and cross-reactivity with AVP antiserum, were detected in anterior pituitary cells and AtT-20 cells. Immunocytochemical staining with anti-neurophysin showed that ∼40–45% of the dissociated anterior pituitary cells in culture and >95% of the AtT-20 cells were stained. Anterior pituitary cells in culture and AtT-20 cells had a basal level of release of AVP in the 0·01–0·1 nm range. These results indicate that anterior pituitary cells and AtT-20 cells have the ability to synthesize and process pro-vasopressin to AVP and neurophysin, endogenously.

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J. M. Johnston, D. F. Wood, E. A. Bolaji and D. G. Johnston

ABSTRACT

Some pituitary tumours respond to dopamine by decreasing the release of prolactin and/or GH and by inhibition of tumour growth. Certain tumours are unresponsive. Dopamine D2 receptor high-affinity binding is impaired in these tumours, and the rat GH3 cell line behaves in a similar way. The hypothesis that the dopamine-binding defect results from impaired D2 receptor gene expression has been tested in the present study. On Northern blots, D2 receptor mRNA was present in both normal rat pituitary cells and in GH3 cells. Sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis identified a putative D2 receptor protein in normal and GH3 cell membranes. The lack of effect of dopamine in GH3 cells does not reflect the absence of D2 receptor gene expression.

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C. Moniz, P. B. J. Burton, A. N. Malik, M. Dixit, J. P. Banga, K. Nicolaides, P. Quirke, D. E. Knight and A. M. McGregor

ABSTRACT

Parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP) has been detected in fetal serum and amniotic fluid. Using a combination of immunocytochemistry and molecular biology we have detected the peptide and its mRNA in a variety of fetal tissues throughout gestation. Tissue-specific mRNA isoforms were observed, the pattern of hybridization of which changed throughout gestation. In addition, the intensity and pattern of immunocytochemical localization of the peptide was found to vary over the time-period studied (8∓30 weeks). PTHrP is expressed by a variety of tumours associated with the syndrome of humoral hypercalcaemia of malignancy and probably accounts for the hypercalcaemia by virtue of its limited amino acid homology with parathyroid hormone. These data demonstrate for the first time that PTHrP, a tumour-related peptide, is expressed during normal human fetal development, and suggest the possibility that it may function to regulate fetal calcium balance and growth in utero.

Free access

Victor Quereda and Marcos Malumbres

The pituitary gland regulates diverse physiological functions, including growth, metabolism, reproduction, stress response, and ageing. Early genetic models in the mouse taught us that the pituitary is highly sensitive to genetic alteration of specific cell cycle regulators such as the retinoblastoma protein (pRB) or the cell cycle inhibitor p27Kip1. The molecular analysis of human pituitary neoplasias has now corroborated that cell cycle deregulation is significantly implicated in pituitary tumorigenesis. In particular, proteins involved in cyclin-dependent kinase regulation or the pRB pathway are altered in nearly all human pituitary tumors. Additional cell cycle regulators such as PTTG1/securin may have critical roles in promoting genomic instability in pituitary neoplasias. Recent experimental data suggest that these cell cycle regulators may have significant implications in the biology of putative progenitor cells and pituitary homeostasis. Understanding how cell cycle regulation controls pituitary biology may provide us with new therapeutic approaches against pituitary diseases.

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Ryan J O Dowling, Saroj Niraula, Vuk Stambolic and Pamela J Goodwin

The anti-diabetic drug metformin is rapidly emerging as a potential anti-cancer agent. Metformin, effective in treating type 2 diabetes and the insulin resistance syndromes, improves insulin resistance by reducing hepatic gluconeogenesis and by enhancing glucose uptake by skeletal muscle. Epidemiological studies have consistently associated metformin use with decreased cancer incidence and cancer-related mortality. Furthermore, numerous preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated anti-cancer effects of metformin, leading to an explosion of interest in evaluating this agent in human cancer. The effects of metformin on circulating insulin levels indicate a potential efficacy towards cancers associated with hyperinsulinaemia; however, metformin may also directly inhibit tumour growth. In this review, we describe the mechanism of action of metformin and summarise the epidemiological, clinical and preclinical evidence supporting a role for metformin in the treatment of cancer. In addition, the challenges associated with translating preclinical results into therapeutic benefit in the clinical setting will be discussed.

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Inga K Johnsen and Felix Beuschlein

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are members of the transforming growth factor-β superfamily of ligands that impact on a multitude of biological processes including cell type specification, differentiation and organogenesis. Furthermore, a large body of evidence points towards important BMP-dependent mechanisms in tumorigenesis. In accordance with their diverse actions, BMPs have been demonstrated to serve as auto-, para- and endocrine modulators also in a number of hormonal systems. In this review, we highlight novel aspects of BMP-dependent regulatory networks that pertain to adrenal physiology and disease, which have been uncovered during recent years. These aspects include the role of BMP-dependent mechanism during adrenal development, modulating effects on catecholamine synthesis and steroidogenesis and dysregulation of BMP signalling in adrenal tumorigenesis. Furthermore, we summarize potential therapeutic approaches that are based on reconstitution of BMP signalling in adrenocortical tumour cells.