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S. Tsagarakis, L. H. Rees, G. M. Besser, and A. Grossman

ABSTRACT

We have employed an acute explant system of the rat hypothalamus in vitro, as previously described, to examine the role of calcium and calmodulin in the release of corticotrophin-releasing hormone-41 (CRH-41). Release of CRH-41, as determined by radioimmunoassay, was stimulated in a dose-dependent manner by the membrane-depolarizing agents KCl and veratridine. Stimulation was also observed with the calcium ionophore A23187. The calcium channel blocker verapamil (1–100 μmol/l) inhibited both KCl-and veratridine-induced release in a dose-dependent manner (maximum inhibition of 75% and 60% respectively), thus providing further evidence that calcium entry is required for secretion of CRH-41 following membrane depolarization. Trifluoperazine (1–100 μmol/1), an inhibitor of calmodulin—calcium interaction, decreased both KCl- and veratridine-evoked CRH-41 secretion in a dose-dependent fashion (maximum inhibition of 50% and 30% respectively). Similarly, phenytoin, a calmodulin-dependent kinase inhibitor, in the concentration range of 1–100 μmol/1, also decreased depolarization-induced CRH-41 release in a dose-dependent manner. The basal release of CRH-41 was unaffected by either treatment. Finally, both calmodulin inhibitors (10 μmol/l) decreased CRH-41 release induced by the calcium ionophore A23187 (10 μmol/l).

These data provide evidence for the role of calcium in membrane depolarization-induced stimulus-secretion coupling of rat hypothalamic CRH-41. Furthermore, inhibition of the stimulatory responses by two separate classes of calmodulin inhibitors suggests a role for calmodulin, at least in part, in this process.

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P. Lavender, A. J. L. Clark, G. M. Besser, and L. H. Rees

ABSTRACT

The pro-opiomelanocortin gene is widely expressed in human tissues, although both transcriptional initiation sites and regulation appear to be tissue specific. In order to determine how promoter and enhancer choice is effected, we have studied the methylation pattern of the gene in a number of normal tissues, tumours and cell lines. Variability of this pattern was observed in the 5′-flanking DNA, particularly at the HpaII site located at −304 bp upstream from the pituitary CAP site. This site was generally methylated in tissues likely to express the predominant extrapituitary (800 nucleotide) message, while in tissues known to express the normal pituitary (1150 nucleotide) message and longer species, a tendency towards undermethylation was observed. Although the sites at which variable methylation occurs did not correspond to established binding sites for regulatory proteins, many of these regions remain to be determined and thus it is possible that methylation may be influential in the tissue-specific regulation of this gene.

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A. J. L. Clark, P. M. Lavender, G. M. Besser, and L. H. Rees

ABSTRACT

As an approach to understanding the abnormalities of pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene regulation in human ACTH-secreting tumours, we have analysed the POMC mRNA content of nine such tumours using the Northern blot technique. Most of the tumours and normal human pituitary contained easily detectable quantities of POMC mRNA. The length of this message in most tumours was similar to, or slightly larger than, that in the normal pituitary (1150–1200 bases). Ribonuclease H studies suggested that the origin of any size heterogeneity was a longer poly(A) tail in the tumour RNA. Some tumours, however, expressed a short POMC mRNA (800 bases) which may lack the first two exons of the POMC gene as has been described. A third POMC mRNA size variant (1500 bases) was also seen in low levels in two cases, and as the principal mRNA species in one case. Primer extension and S1 nuclease protection studies suggested that most transcripts in the tumours analysed originated from the conventional promoter, and thus the use of an alternative promoter is not an adequate explanation for the expression of this gene in ectopic ACTH-secreting tumours.

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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.