GH4C1 cells, a clonal strain of rat pituitary tumor cells, have high-affinity, functional receptors for the inhibitory hypothalamic peptide somatostatin (SRIF) and for epidermal growth factor (EGF). In this study we have examined the events that follow the initial binding of SRIF to its specific plasma membrane receptors in GH4C1 cells and have compared the processing of receptor-bound SRIF with that of EGF. When cells were incubated with [125I-Tyr1]SRIF at temperatures ranging from 4 to 37 degrees C, greater than 80% of the specifically bound peptide was removed by extraction with 0.2 M acetic acid, 0.5 M NaCl, pH 2.5. In contrast, the subcellular distribution of receptor-bound 125I-EGF was temperature dependent. Whereas greater than 95% of specifically bound 125I-EGF was removed by acid treatment after a 4 degrees C binding incubation, less than 10% was removed when the binding reaction was performed at 22 or 37 degrees C. In pulse-chase experiments, receptor-bound 125I-EGF was transferred from an acid-sensitive to an acid-resistant compartment with a half-time of 2 min at 37 degrees C. In contrast, the small amount of [125I-Tyr1]SRIF that was resistant to acid treatment did not increase during a 2-h chase incubation at 37 degrees C. Chromatographic analysis of the radioactivity released from cells during dissociation incubations at 37 degrees C showed that greater than 90% of prebound 125I-EGF was released as 125I-tyrosine, whereas prebound [125I-Tyr1]SRIF was released as a mixture of intact peptide (55%) and 125I-tyrosine (45%). Neither chloroquine (0.1 mM), ammonium chloride (20 mM), nor leupeptin (0.1 mg/ml) increased the amount of [125I-Tyr1]SRIF bound to cells at 37 degrees C. Furthermore, chloroquine and leupeptin did not alter the rate of dissociation or degradation of prebound [125I-Tyr1]SRIF. In contrast, these inhibitors increased the amount of cell-associated 125I-EGF during 37 degrees C binding incubations and decreased the subsequent rate of release of 125I-tyrosine. The results presented indicate that, as in other cell types, EGF underwent rapid receptor-mediated endocytosis in GH4C1 cells and was subsequently degraded in lysosomes. In contrast, SRIF remained at the cell surface for several hours although it elicits its biological effects within minutes. Furthermore, a constant fraction of the receptor-bound [125I-Tyr1]SRIF was degraded at the cell surface before dissociation. Therefore, after initial binding of [125I-Tyr1]SRIF and 125I-EGF to their specific membrane receptors, these peptides are processed very differently in GH4C1 cells.

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