Evidence has accumulated showing that vasoactive peptides, such as endothelin-1, adrenomedullin and urotensin-II, are expressed in various kinds of tumour cells. In the present study, the expression of endothelin-1 and endothelin receptors was studied in eight human tumour cell lines: T98G (glioblastoma), IMR-32 and NB69 (neuroblastoma), BeWo (choriocarcinoma), SW-13 (adrenocortical carcinoma), DLD-1 (colonic carcinoma), HeLa (cervical carcinoma) and VMRC-RCW (renal carcinoma). Reverse transcriptase–PCR showed expression of endothelin-1 mRNA in seven out of the eight cell lines, the exception being BeWo cells. ETA receptor mRNA was expressed in T98G, IMR-32 and NB69 cells, but weakly in the other cells. ETB receptor mRNA was expressed in IMR-32, NB69 and BeWo cells, but only weakly in T98G and HeLa cells. Immunoreactive endothelin was detected in the culture media of six out of the eight cell lines, but not in that of IMR-32 or BeWo cells. Treatment of T98G cells with an anti-endothelin-1 antibody or an anti-adrenomedullin antibody for 24h decreased cell numbers to approx. 84% and 90% of control respectively. Treatment with the ETA receptor antagonist BQ-610 (1µM) significantly decreased cell number to about 90% of control, whereas the ETB receptor antagonist BQ-788 had no significant effect. On the other hand, exogenously added endothelin-1, adrenomedullin or urotensin-II (0.1µM) had no significant effects on cell number. These results suggest that endothelin-1 acts as a paracrine or autocrine growth stimulator in tumours. The effect of endothelin-1 on tumour growth appears to be mediated by the ETA receptor.

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