Heparin-binding growth factors present in pig uterine tissue were purified by approx. 50,000-fold using a combination of ammonium sulphate precipitation, ion-exchange chromatography and heparin-affinity chromatography. Purification of the uterus-derived growth factors (UDGFs) was monitored by the stimulation of [3H]thymidine incorporation into Swiss 3T3 cells and by a radioreceptor assay using 125I-labelled epidermal growth factor (EGF) as the ligand. The latter was shown to be a novel, rapid and reliable assay for heparin-binding growth factors which utilizes their trans-modulation of EGF receptor affinity. UDGFs exhibit strong affinity for immobilized heparin and two forms, named alpha UDGF and beta UDGF, were distinguished by salt gradient elution from heparin-agarose affinity columns. beta UDGF activity was eluted from heparin-agarose between 1.5 M- and 1.8 M-NaCl, and was correlated with the elution of a protein doublet of 17.2 kDa and 17.7 kDa. Immunoblotting of heparin-purified beta UDGF indicated that the beta UDGF doublet is immunologically related to the 146-amino-acid form of bovine basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), and that the 17.2 kDa component is an N-terminally truncated form of the 17.7 kDa component. After purification by C4 reversed-phase h.p.l.c., this doublet was biologically active and greater than 95% pure as assessed by silver-stained SDS/PAGE. Amino acid composition and sequence analysis confirmed that these beta UDGF polypeptides were microheterogeneous forms of bFGF. Fractions containing alpha UDGF activity were eluted from heparin-agarose in 1.3 M-NaCl. These fractions contained a 16.5 kDa protein which co-migrated on SDS/polyacrylamide gels with recombinant human acidic FGF (aFGF) and which which cross-reacted with an antiserum raised against aFGF. The identification of heparin-binding growth factors in porcine uterus at the time of implantation raises the possibility that they function in the reproductive tract during early pregnancy.

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