Regulation of α-fetoprotein and transferrin synthesis and secretion in mouse hepatoma cells

Magda Hernandez Morales, John Papaconstantinou

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5 Scopus citations


Significant differences in the glucocorticoid- and cyclic nucleotide-mediated regulation of the secretory glycoproteins, α-fetoprotein and transferrin, have been observed to develop in a mouse hepatoma cell line, Hepa-2, after many passages in culture. Treatment of low-passage cells with hydrocortisone (10-6m), N6,O2-dibutyryl cyclic AMP (10-3 m), or 8-bromo-cyclic AMP (10-3 m) results in 1.5-, 2- to 4-, and 5.5- to 6-fold increases, respectively, in the rates of synthesis and secretion of α-fetoprotein. As expected of secretory proteins, the ratio of synthesis to secretion is 1 and remains unaltered when treatment with hydrocoritsone, N6,O2-dibutyryl cyclic AMP, and 8-bromo-cyclic AMP causes a stimulation of synthesis and secretion. Similar studies showing that albumin and transferrin synthesis and secretion are also balanced in these low-passage cells have been published and indicate that the regulation of synthesis and secretion remains coupled in these low-passage cells. In high-passage Hepa-2 cells, however, we have shown that the relative rate of α-fetoprotein synthesis is higher than its rate of secretion and that the ratio of synthesis to secretion is 4. Similarly, the ratio of transferrin synthesis to secretion is 3.6, whereas it remains unaltered for albumin. When the high-passage cells are treated with N6,O2-dibutyryl cyclic AMP, there is a greater increase in the rate of secretion for both glycoproteins, resulting in a reduction of the ratio of synthesis to secretion from 4 to 1.63 for α-fetoprotein and from 3.6 to 2.3 for transferrin. This effect on the secretion of α-fetoprotein and transferrin is specific for the cyclic nucleotides and occurs only in high-passage cells. Hydrocortisone treatment causes an increase in α-fetoprotein synthesis and secretion. However, the ratio of synthesis to secretion increases from 3.96 in control to 5.5 in treated cells. Our studies show, therefore, that there is an increase in this ratio because of a slightly greater effect on synthesis which is not reflected in secretion. Similarly, hydrocortisone exerts a greater increase in transferrin synthesis than secretion and causes the ratio of synthesis to secretion to increase from 3.6 to 6.2. We propose that during continued subculturing a Hepa-2 variant is selected in which the regulation of serum glycoprotein synthesis and secretion is uncoupled. Furthermore, this effect is specific for secretory glycoproteins since the regulation of albumin synthesis and secretion by hydrocortisone and cyclic nucleotides remained unaltered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)592-602
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 15 1982
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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