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The three ras genes code for proteins with a putative role in cellular signal transduction. They belong to a larger family of small guanosine-triphosphate (GTP)-binding proteins. The ras proteins acquire transforming activity when amino acids are substituted at one of a few specific sites, as a result of a point mutation in the gene. In about one third of adenocarcinomas of the lung, a K-ras mutation is present in codon 12 of the gene. Patients with early stages of K-ras mutation-positive tumors have a very unfavorable prognosis, even if apparently radical resection of the tumor has taken place. K-ras mutations are very rare among nonsmokers, and it is reasonable to assume that carcinogens in tobacco smoke directly cause the mutation. The types of ras mutations found in lung cancer are different from those in gastrointestinal malignancies. Colon cancer is mainly associated with mutations leading to substitution of the normal glycine at amino acid position 12 of K-ras by either valine or aspartic acid, and mutations in N-ras are not exceptional. In contrast, the predominant mutation in lung cancer leads to substitution of cysteine in codon 12. Several other members of the ras gene superfamily are also expressed in human lung cancer, but a possible relationship with lung tumorigenesis remains to be established.
We describe transgenic mouse lines that express lacZ under the control of the Hox 3.3 Promoter II. The correct anterior boundary can be fixed by 3.6 kb of promoter DNA (plus 1.6 kb of 5' transcribed sequences), both in tissues of ectodermal and mesodermal origin. The posterior border, however, is not respected, and lacZ expression continues into the tail region. One line has particularly strong graded expression in the anterior proximal limb bud. Other lines, containing a shorter promoter fragment (0.6 kb), have ectopic expression in the head region, including one line that has expression in the anterior half of the retina. Such mouse lines make it possible to molecularly distinguish cells in regions of the embryo that look otherwise identical and may be useful in studying the establishment of molecular differences in the mouse embryo.
Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF beta) has been implicated in the regulation of hepatocyte function. We have examined TGF beta 1 regulation of albumin and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) mRNA levels in a well differentiated mouse hepatoma cell line (BWTG3). TGF beta 1 reversibly decreased steady state mRNA levels of both albumin and AFP. By nuclear run-on assays, we found that TGF beta 1 caused no significant change in transcription rates for albumin or AFP. Pretreatment with actinomycin-D prevented the TGF beta 1-induced decrease in albumin and AFP mRNA levels. Also, if cells were treated with actinomycin-D after a 12-h exposure to TGF beta 1, actinomycin-D abrogated the further decrease in albumin and AFP mRNA levels that occurred after treatment with TGF beta 1 alone. Cycloheximide pretreatment blocked the TGF beta 1-induced decrease in albumin and AFP mRNA levels. TGF beta 1 altered neither the rate of BWTG3 cell growth nor the levels of mRNA for the growth-associated protooncogene c-myc. These data suggest that TGF beta 1 has regulatory effects on specific hepatocyte functions that are independent of growth regulatory effects. The decrease in albumin and AFP mRNAs caused by TGF beta 1 is posttranscriptional and dependent upon de novo RNA and protein synthesis.
Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), the principal regulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is also secreted in peripheral inflammatory sites, where it acts as a local proinflammatory agent. Arthritis-susceptible LEW/N rats have profoundly deficient hypothalamic CRH responses to inflammatory stimuli and other stressors. Arthritis-resistant F344/N rats, on the other hand, have a robust increase in hypothalamic CRH in response to the same stimuli. Contrasting with these hypothalamic CRH responses, we now show that CRH expression is markedly increased in the joints and surrounding tissues of LEW/N rats with streptococcal cell wall- and adjuvant-induced arthritis, whereas it is not increased in similarly treated F344/N rats and is only transiently increased in congenitally athymic nude LEW.rnu/rnu rats. Glucocorticoid treatment suppressed, but did not eliminate, CRH immunoreactivity in the joints of LEW/N rats. CRH mRNA was present in inflamed synovia, as well as in spinal cord, and inflamed synovia also expressed specific CRH-binding sites. We compared CRH expression in inflamed joints with another well-characterized proinflammatory neuropeptide, substance P (SP), and found that SP immunoreactivity paralleled that of CRH. In summary, although LEW/N rats have deficient hypothalamic CRH responses to inflammatory stimuli compared with F344/N rats, they express relatively high levels of CRH at the site of inflammation. Analogous to SP, CRH may be delivered to the inflammatory site by peripheral nerves and/or synthesized at the inflammatory site. These data provide further support for the concept that CRH not only triggers the pituitary-adrenal antiinflammatory cascade, but also functions as an antithetically active local mediator of acute and chronic inflammatory arthritis. These data also illustrate the complex interrelationships of the nervous, endocrine, immune, and inflammatory systems.
Progressive renal fibrosis is considered to be the final common pathway leading to chronic renal insufficiency. In this study, the authors examined some of the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating the renal accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins using rats with puromycin amino-nucleoside (PAN) nephrosis as an acute model system. Puromycin aminonucleoside rats developed reversible nephrotic syndrome accompanied by an interstitial infiltrate of monocytes. The number of interstitial fibroblasts expressing ST4 antigen did not increase. During the first 4 days, steady-state mRNA levels for all genes examined remained at or below control levels. At 1 week, nephrotic syndrome and interstitial inflammation were established, and a period of renal cell proliferation occurred, identified by increased histone mRNA levels and localized by tritiated thymine autoradiography to tubular epithelial cells and occasional interstitial cells. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) steady-state mRNA levels were increased eightfold, but returned to control levels by 3 weeks. At week 1, there was a 10- to 20-fold increase in kidney steady-state mRNA levels for genes encoding interstitial matrix proteins collagen I and fibronectin and basement membrane collagen IV. By in situ hybridization, alpha 1(I) procollagen mRNA was localized to interstitial cells. Immunofluorescence microscopy demonstrated focal accumulation of ECM proteins in the tubulointerstitial compartment at 2 and 3 weeks, but by 6 weeks, kidney immunohistology was normal again. Steady-state mRNA levels for the matrix degrading metalloproteinase stromelysin remained at control values, whereas the levels for interstitial collagenase were normal at week 1 and increased twofold to threefold at 2 and 3 weeks. Steady-state mRNA levels for the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP) increased fivefold at 1 week and returned to baseline values over the next 2 weeks. The results of this study suggest that tubulointerstitial ECM accumulation occurs in rats with acute PAN nephrosis because of the activation of genes encoding several matrix proteins and inhibition of matrix degradation mediated by TIMP. These events are reversed during the phase of recovery from nephrotic syndrome. Increased mRNA levels for TGF-beta, possibly originating from inflammatory interstitial monocytes, are likely to be one of the mediators of the molecular events observed.
As a result of examining regional-specific gene expression in the mouse epididymis, a novel cystatin-related epididymal specific (CRES) gene was identified. Substantial homology between the CRES gene and members of the cystatin family of cysteine proteinase inhibitors was observed at the amino acid level. This homology included the presence of four highly conserved cysteine residues in exact alignment with the cystatins as well as other regions of sequence characteristic of the cystatins. However, unlike the cystatins, the CRES gene does not contain specific highly conserved sequence motifs thought to be necessary for cysteine proteinase inhibitory activity. Also, in contrast to the ubiquitous expression of the cystatin C gene, Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization demonstrated that the CRES gene is very restricted in its expression. The 0.75-kilobase CRES transcript is dramatically restricted to the very proximal caput region of the epididymis with 15- to 20-fold less expression in the testis and no expression detected in any of the other 24 tissues examined. In addition, the CRES transcript disappears 2-3 weeks after castration, suggesting a dependence on androgens. However, its expression remained undetectable even after the administration of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone. Unilateral castration also resulted in the disappearance of the CRES mRNA from the castrate epididymis, but not from the intact epididymis, suggesting that testicular factors or hormones other than androgens may be involved in the regulation of CRES gene expression. Therefore, the unique sequence of the CRES gene as well as its highly restricted expression and unusual regulation by the testis suggests that it has a very specialized role in the epididymis.