The ectopic production of the glycopeptide hormone human placental choriogonadotropin by HeLa65 cells was measured by radioimmunoassay with antiserum against the β-subunit of choriogonadotropin and with the125I-labelled β-subunit as a tracer antigen. Choriogonadotropin synthesis was markedly (500-fold) stimulated by sodium butyrate. Kinetic studies and the use of an inhibitor of protein synthesis, cycloheximide, indicated that protein synthesis was required for this induction. Investigation of the efficiency of 22 aliphatic short-chain fatty acids and derivatives in causing increased choriogonadotropin synthesis by HeLa cells showed stringent structural requirements. Induction of choriogonadotropin synthesis in HeLa cells was not restricted to butyrate. Other aliphatic acids (propionate, isobutyrate, valerate and hexanoate) were also capable of inducing choriogonadotropin synthesis at 10–50% of the efficiency of butyrate. Hydroxy derivatives of monocarboxylate inducers, related mono- and di-carboxylic acids, alcohols, amines, ketones, esters and sulphoxide were ineffective in increasing choriogonadotropin production by HeLa cells. A saturated C4 straight-chain acid without substituent hydroxyl groups but with a methyl group at one end and a carboxyl moiety at the other appeared to be most efficient in activating choriogonadotropin production. A second clonal line of HeLa cells, HeLa71, showed a higher constitutive synthesis of choriogonadotropin than HeLa65 cells, which was also markedly increased by butyrate. Butyrate and other aliphatic monocarboxylate inducers of choriogonadotropin synthesis inhibited HeLa-cell growth and DNA synthesis. This inhibition of DNA replication may be related to the mechanism of choriogonadotropin synthesis, since two well-characterized anti-neoplastic inhibitors of DNA synthesis, hydroxyurea and 1-β-d-arabinofuranosylcytosine, also stimulated a 300-fold increase in choriogonadotropin synthesis in HeLa cells and were synergistic with butyrate in promoting choriogonadotropin synthesis. Thus activation in tumour cells of genes normally expressed by foetal tissue and the consequent ectopic synthesis of polypeptide hormones may require neither cell division nor DNA synthesis.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.