We have examined protein turnover, growth, DNA synthesis and proliferation in three independent clones of 3T3-NR6 cells transformed with the oncogene c-H-ras1. We find that, firstly, the half-maximum concentration of serum and insulin regulating protein turnover in ras-transformed cells is significantly reduced from 0.5 to 0.3% for serum and from 4 nM to 0.5 nM for insulin, and, secondly, ras-transformed cells consistently have lower rates of protein degradation. The catabolic effect of conditioned medium or serum withdrawal is attenuated in transformed lines by maintaining lower basal rates of protein breakdown and higher basal rates of DNA and protein synthesis. Serum stimulation of growth in transformed cells is achieved in the short term by lower rates of protein breakdown rather than higher rates of protein synthesis: rates of protein synthesis become significantly higher 24 h after serum stimulation. Therefore transformed cells have higher rates of proliferation and grow to higher densities, but display characteristics common to normal cells because rates of protein synthesis decrease and protein degradation increase as a function of cell density. We conclude that higher basal rates of protein synthesis and growth with retention of the normal proliferative response to serum result from the pleiotropic nature of ras transformation, whereas lower rates of protein degradation and increased sensitivity to serum and insulin imply a direct regulatory role for ras.

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