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K. A. Freed and A. C. Herington


Human MCF-7 breast cancer cells have been studied to determine their suitability as an autocrine model for the synthesis, secretion and action of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). Secretion of immunoreactive (ir-) IGF-I into serum-free medium was very low (<500 pg/106 cells per day). Northern blot hybridization detected at least two IGF-I messenger RNA transcripts (∼4·6 and ∼1·8 kb) which were similar in size to those reported in other human and rat tissues. IGF-II mRNA was also detected but at low abundance. Cell proliferation was stimulated in a dose-responsive manner by exogenous IGF-I (10–30 ng/ml). Addition of a monoclonal antibody against IGF-I to MCF-7 cells in serum-free medium caused an inhibition of cell proliferation, suggesting that endogenous locally produced IGF-I does play an autocrine/paracrine role in MCF-7 cell growth. Proliferation of MCF-7 cells was sensitive to oestradiol (10 nm) in the absence but not in the presence of the weakly oestrogenic pH indicator phenol red. Neither IGF-I secretion nor IGF-I mRNA synthesis, however, was affected by addition of oestradiol. Similarly, GH, dexamethasone or dexamethasone plus oestradiol had no effect on either parameter.

These data indicate that MCF-7 cells synthesize, secrete and respond to IGF-I. The very low levels of ir-IGF-I produced and their apparent lack of hormonal modulation suggest, however, that further studies are required to establish whether IGF-I plays a major physiological role in growth and development of MCF-7 cells.

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T. S. Tiong, J. L. Stevenson, and A. C. Herington


The nature and tissue distribution of prolactin receptor (PRL-R) mRNA in both male and female rats was studied. A single mRNA species of 2.2kb was identified in the liver, kidney, adrenal, prostate, lactating mammary gland and ovary but not in the male lung, heart, skeletal muscle, thymus, adipose tissue or brain. There were distinct and contrasting sex differences in abundance of PRL-R mRNA in some tissues: liver (female>>male), kidney and adrenal (male >>female). A mRNA species of 4kb was occasionally detected in the male adrenal and female liver. Given previous reports on the effects of thyroid status on PRL binding, the effects of thyroxine (T4), propylthiouracil (PTU) or combined treatment on PRL-R mRNA were assessed. In the male rat, PTU treatment markedly increased (three- to fourfold) PRL-R mRNA in the liver but decreased it (∼50%) in the kidney. These changes were reflected in similar changes in lactogenic binding activity. T4 or PTU treatment increased PRL-R mRNA in the prostate, with no obvious changes in binding. No major changes were seen in adrenal glands. In the female rat, PTU had little effect on PRL-R mRNA in any tissue, although binding of 125I-labelled lactogen was decreased in both the liver and kidney. There was an unexpected threefold rise in PRL-R mRNA in the female kidney following combined T4 and PTU treatment. Overall, there was a quite close correlation between the effects of thyroid status on PRL-R mRNA levels and specific lactogenic binding to membranes prepared from the same tissue samples. These studies provide data on the tissue distribution and size of PRL-R mRNA in rats and suggest a novel and complex tissue- and sex-dependent regulation by thyroid hormone.

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Inge Seim, Amy A Lubik, Melanie L Lehman, Nadine Tomlinson, Eliza J Whiteside, Adrian C Herington, Colleen C Nelson, and Lisa K Chopin

Ghrelin is a multifunctional hormone, with roles in stimulating appetite and regulating energy balance, insulin secretion and glucose homoeostasis. The ghrelin gene locus (GHRL) is highly complex and gives rise to a range of novel transcripts derived from alternative first exons and internally spliced exons. The wild-type transcript encodes a 117 amino acid preprohormone that is processed to yield the 28 amino acid peptide ghrelin. Here, we identified insulin-responsive transcription corresponding to cryptic exons in intron 2 of the human ghrelin gene. A transcript, termed in2c-ghrelin (intron 2-cryptic), was cloned from the testis and the LNCaP prostate cancer cell line. This transcript may encode an 83 amino acid preproghrelin isoform that codes for ghrelin, but not obestatin. It is expressed in a limited number of normal tissues and in tumours of the prostate, testis, breast and ovary. Finally, we confirmed that in2c-ghrelin transcript expression, as well as the recently described in1-ghrelin transcript, is significantly upregulated by insulin in cultured prostate cancer cells. Metabolic syndrome and hyperinsulinaemia have been associated with prostate cancer risk and progression. This may be particularly significant after androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer, which induces hyperinsulinaemia, and this could contribute to castrate-resistant prostate cancer growth. We have previously demonstrated that ghrelin stimulates prostate cancer cell line proliferation in vitro. This study is the first description of insulin regulation of a ghrelin transcript in cancer and should provide further impetus for studies into the expression, regulation and function of ghrelin gene products.