We have recently discovered that cells of Coon's Buffalo rat liver (BRL) line secrete a protein which is a potent inhibitor of skeletal myoblast differentiation in vitro. Using ion exchange and molecular exclusion chromatography, we have prepared this protein, which we designate "differentiation inhibitor" (DI), from the materials secreted by BRL cells maintained in serum-free medium. It is a relatively heat-stable protein which is inactivated by treatment with trypsin and mercaptoethanol and has an apparent molecular weight in the range 30,000--36,000. It exhibits no detectable mitogenic or lectin activity and differs from previously reported inhibitors of myoblast differentiation in several respects. It is active in all skeletal myoblast systems tested (Yaffe's L6 line as well as primary cultures of rat, chick, and Japanese quail myoblasts), and it blocks fusion, elevation of creatine kinase, and increased binding of alpha-bungarotoxin. Parallel fractionation of fetal bovine serum (FBS) and chick embryo extract (CEE) yields a peak of activity which similarly inhibits myoblast differentiation. We suggest that the differentiation inhibitor from BRL cells may correspond to the differentiation-inhibiting component(s) of FBS and CEE, and we call attention to the possibility that such a substance could play a role in embryonic growth of myoblasts and in satellite cell formation.

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