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AJ Dunbar, IK Priebe, MP Sanderson, and C Goddard

A method for the large scale expression and purification of rat betacellulin (BTC) from Escherichia coli has been developed using a cleavable fusion protein strategy. Insoluble fusion protein collected as inclusion bodies was dissolved in urea under reducing conditions, re-folded, and purified by gel filtration chromatography and C(4) RP-HPLC. Authentic rat BTC was obtained after proteolytic cleavage of the fusion protein with Factor Xa. Factor Xa cleaved an additional site within the BTC protein, generating a truncated isoform separable from full-length BTC by heparin-affinity chromatography. Recombinant rat BTC stimulated the proliferation of mouse Balb/c 3T3 fibroblasts and competed for binding to the ErbB1 receptor in a dose-dependent manner analogous to that of BTC purified from natural sources.

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V Dunaiski, FR Dunshea, PE Walton, and C Goddard

The effect of short-term GH treatment on steady-state insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) mRNA levels in liver, kidney, longissimus dorsi muscle, stomach and jejunum was examined in pigs. Ten female crossbred pigs were allocated to either saline or GH (70 microg/kg/day) treatment by subcutaneous injection for 4 days. They were allowed to feed ad libitum, and were weighed daily. At the end of the treatment period, the pigs were slaughtered and samples of liver, kidney, skeletal muscle, stomach and jejunum were collected and total RNA was extracted. Steady-state levels of IGFBP-3 mRNA were quantified by RNase protection assay and were compared with the level of IGF-I class 1 and class 2 transcripts. IGFBP-3 mRNA increased in response to GH in both liver and kidney, but not in the other tissues sampled. Hepatic IGF-I mRNA responded to short-term GH treatment with a fourfold increase in IGF-I class 1 mRNA and an eightfold increase in IGF-I class 2 mRNA, which was liver specific. IGF-I class 1 mRNA was not responsive to GH treatment in other tissues. The short-term nature of this treatment suggests that the increase in hepatic IGFBP-3 and IGF-I transcripts is a relatively early response to treatment with GH, and that the increase in plasma concentrations of IGFBP-3 in response to GH are derived from the liver, the kidney, or both.

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C J Xian, Z Upton, C Goddard, C A Shoubridge, K A McNeil, J C Wallace, L C Read, and G L Francis


This study describes the biosynthesis of a human epidermal growth factor fusion protein, Long EGF, that has a 53 amino acid extension peptide derived from the 46 N-terminal amino acids of porcine GH. The approach allowed the production of Long EGF at high efficiency due to the expression of the fusion protein in high yield as inclusion bodies in Escherichia coli. Long EGF had a slightly lower potency compared with native EGF in a range of assays, including binding to anti-EGF antibodies or the EGF receptor, stimulation of Balb/3T3 fibroblast and rat intestinal epithelial cell growth, as well as counteracting the inhibition of mink lung epithelial cell proliferation by transforming growth factor-β1.

Degradation of Long EGF and native EGF was compared in gastrointestinal flushings as an indication of whether the EGF domain of the fusion protein would be protected from proteolytic cleavage and be useful as a trophic agent in the gut. Incubation with flushings from the stomach or jejunum of rats caused rapid cleavage of the extension peptide, releasing native EGF. A C-terminal truncation of Arg53 in the stomach and a removal of the C-terminal pentapeptide (49Trp-Trp-Glu-Leu-Arg53) in the small bowel was demonstrated by N-terminal sequencing and mass spectrometry. The degradation patterns were reflected by changes in migration of products on SDS-PAGE and in subsequent binding activities to the EGF receptor and anti-EGF antibodies. The data show that a human EGF fusion protein can be produced efficiently in a bacterial expression system and that it retains biological activity in vitro. Although the extension peptide was rapidly cleaved from Long EGF in both stomach and small bowel producing similar biological activity to native EGF, it could not prevent subsequent degradation of the EGF domain. Other strategies are being investigated to develop an effective oral form of EGF that resists digestion by proteases in the gastrointestinal tract.

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C Goddard, R Johnson, H J Gilhooley, J O Gardner, A Gray, R S Wilkie, and S C Butterwith


The increase in muscle weight in neonatal animals is a consequence of increased protein accretion and DNA content. GH increases protein accretion but direct effects of GH on myogenic cell proliferation have not been demonstrated. Sex-linked dwarfism in the chick is caused by mutation or deletion in the GH receptor gene and has provided a useful model to study the physiological consequences of GH insensitivity. This study determined the consequences of GH receptor gene mutation on muscle cell proliferation in vivo. Northern and Southern blotting and PCR analysis revealed restriction fragment length polymorphism patterns and a 1·7kb deletion of the intracellular domain of the GH receptor gene in commercial dwarf broiler chicks, similar to the Connecticut strain in which there is a dysfunctional GH receptor. Cell proliferation was measured in muscle sections from normal and dwarf chicks after incorporation of 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU; 25 mg/kg) in vivo at 2, 5 and 13 days of age. Incorporation of BrdU into nuclei was measured in frozen sections, counterstained with propidium iodide to estimate the total number of nuclei by quantitative image analysis, and the labelling index was calculated. Paraffin-embedded sections of breast muscle were stained using an anti-human IGF-I polyclonal antibody. Expression of IGF-I mRNA in muscle from each genotype at 5 days of age was measured by RNAse protection assay.

The labelling index was similar in 2-day-old chicks from both genotypes (normal, 20·14 ± 2·39%; dwarf, 19·79 ± 5·83%). By day 5 the labelling index had decreased but was significantly higher (P<0·02) in normal (12·53 ± 3·36%) compared with the dwarf (6·25 ± 1·39%). By 13 days of age, there was a further decrease in labelling index but no difference between the groups (normal, 4·92 ± 1·28%; dwarf, 4·96 ± 1·51%). IGF-I mRNA was expressed and IGF-I peptide was identified in muscle sections but there was no difference between genotypes. The results show that cell division in breast muscle in vivo is high in neonatal chicks but it declines with increasing age. The absence of a functional GH receptor in the dwarf is associated with a greater decline in DNA synthesis and suggests that GH may directly affect a proportion of cells, since there was no difference in IGF-I mRNA or peptide.