Author(s): Shin JT
Autocrine/paracrine stimulation of cell growth by members of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family of polypeptides is dependent upon extracellular interactions with specific high affinity receptors at the cell surface. Acidic FGF (FGF-1) lacks a classical signal sequence for secretion, suggesting that intrinsic levels of this mitogen may not stimulate cell growth and utilizes a non-classical pathway to gain access to the extracellular compartment. To evaluate the biological potential of intracellular FGF-1 more rigorously, human cDNA sequences for the growth factor were introduced into primary murine embryonic fibroblasts using retrovirally mediated gene transfer. Heparin affinity, Western analysis, mitogenic assays, in situ immunohistochemical techniques, induction of tyrosine phosphorylation and antibody inhibition studies were used to demonstrate functionality of the FGF-1 transgene in this experimental model. Under normal culture conditions, cells constitutively expressing intracellular FGF-1 exhibited a slight growth advantage. In contrast, when maintained in reduced serum, these cells adopted a transformed phenotype and demonstrated an enhanced growth potential, induction of FGF-specific phosphotyrosyl proteins and the nuclear association of the growth factor. Analysis of the conditioned media from these stressed cells indicated that serum starvation induces the secretion of FGF-1 as latent high molecular mass complexes requiring reducing agents to activate its full biological potential.