The effect of dexamethasone on the synthesis and degradation of type IV collagen was studied in human fibrosarcoma cells, HT-1080. A dexamethasone concentration as low as 0.1 microM markedly increased collagen synthesis in HT-1080 cells labelled with [14C]proline. The increase in type IV collagen synthesis was not specific, since total protein synthesis was also increased. Further studies indicated that part of the increase was due to an increase in the specific radioactivity of the intracellular proline pool, after dexamethasone treatment. In fact, with dexamethasone concentrations of 0.1-10 microM the relative collagen synthesis was decreased, indicating that synthesis of other protein was increased more than that of type IV collagen. This was also confirmed by measuring the relative amount of type IV collagen RNA by using recombinant plasmid cDNA specific for the human procollagen pro alpha l (IV) RNA. The results indicated that relative collagen synthesis and the relative amount of type IV collagen messenger RNA was decreased similarly, indicating that dexamethasone affected type IV collagen synthesis at the pre-translational level. The dexamethasone-induced effect on total protein and collagen synthesis was maximal after 12-24 h. Dexamethasone induced a marked accumulation of collagen into the cell layer, leading to diminished deposition of soluble collagen into the medium. Since bacterial-collagenase treatment of the cell layer drastically decreased the collagen content of the dexamethasone-treated cells, this indicates that dexamethasone caused an accumulation of collagen into the extracellular matrix of the cell layer. In contrast, the amount of fibronectin was markedly increased in the medium. Dexamethasone decreased the type IV collagen-degrading activity in HT-1080 cells. The HT-1080 cells contained glucocorticoid receptors, as demonstrated by two different methods: by a whole-cell binding assay and by using a cytosol-gel-filtration method. The number of specific binding sites was similar to that in human skin fibroblasts. In conclusion, glucocorticoids affect the metabolism of type IV collagen and fibronectin in HT-1080 cells, and, since these cells contain specific glucocorticoid receptors, the effects are apparently receptor-mediated.

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