Our earlier binding studies of the 22000- and 20000-Mr variants of human growth hormone (somatotropin) to pregnant-rabbit liver and mammary receptors [Closset, Smal, Gomez & Hennen (1983) Biochem. J. 214, 885-892] suggested that the 20000-Mr variant was a lower-affinity analogue of the 22000-Mr molecule. Since the receptor population in these tissues is not fully characterized, we have now investigated the binding of both variants to the well-characterized and highly specific human-growth-hormone receptor of the human lymphocyte IM-9 cell line. The maximum bindability of radioiodinated 22000- and 22000-Mr to IM-9 cells was 60 and 45% respectively. Both hormone variants have essentially the same binding characteristics: slow association (equilibrium reached in 8-10h at 30 degrees C), poor reversibility (‘tight binding’), linear Scatchard plot, same specificity as shown by lack of competition by bovine, porcine or equine growth hormones or human growth hormone-(32-46)-(missing in the 20000-Mr variant),-(1-134)- and -(141-191)-peptides. Both unlabelled hormones inhibit binding of both tracers completely, with the 20000-Mr variant being only half as potent as the 22000-Mr one. The apparent affinity is 2.8 × 10(9)M-1 for the 22000-Mr variant and 1.6 × 10(9)M-1 for the 20000-Mr variant. This decreased affinity of the 20000-Mr variant appears to be due to a lower association rate constant. Concentrations (5 ng/ml) of the two variants that occupy about 15% of the total sites induce a marked down-regulation of the receptors after 18h incubation, but the 20000-Mr variant (50% decrease) has a smaller effect than the 22000-Mr variant (75% decrease). Thus the only consequence of the residues-32-46 deletion in the 20000-Mr variant is a lower association rate and affinity for the IM-9 lymphocyte human-growth-hormone receptor. The close binding characteristics of the two forms suggest that the known differences in their insulin-like effects cannot be explained by differences in the nature of their interaction with the human-growth-hormone receptor.

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