Previous studies have demonstrated that interleukin-1 (IL-1) stimulates fibroblast growth (Schmidt, J. A., S. B. Mizel, D. Cohn, and I. Green. 1982. J. Immunol. 128:2177-2182) and binds to specific, high affinity receptors of BALB/c3T3 cells (Bird, T. A., and J. Saklatval. 1986. Nature (Lond.). 324:263-265, 266-268). We have investigated the mechanism of fibroblast growth stimulation by IL-1. Addition of fibroblast growth factor derived from platelets (PDGF) to a quiescent culture of BALB/c3T3 cells produced 8-10-fold increase in DNA synthesis during 24-h incubation. The cellular action of PDGF was mediated through competence induction and required synergistic action of plasma-derived factors for full mitogenic activity. When tested at a wide range of concentrations (0.1-100 pM), natural IL-1 or recombinant IL-1 produced only a maximum of 5-10% of DNA synthesis elicited in response to PDGF or serum. Induction of DNA synthesis required continuous presence of IL-1 and did not exhibit synergism with plasma. Competence induction and mitogenic stimulation by PDGF was associated with early induction of proteins P32, P38, P46-48, P75, and changes in cytoskeletal organization. Examination of these early cellular changes showed that IL-1 did not produce similar induction of cellular proteins and the morphological changes associated with growth stimulation. These results suggest that the mode of IL-1 action on BALB/c3T3 was not through competence induction. When IL-1 was added to cells rendered competent by brief exposure to PDGF, 10-15% additional DNA synthesis occurred during the first 24 h. Extended incubation of PDGF-treated cells in the presence of IL-1 revealed that the stimulation by IL-1 occurred predominantly during the subsequent cycle of DNA replication, wherein DNA synthesis reached three- to fivefold higher than the untreated cultures. We conclude (a) IL-1 alone is not a potent mitogen for BALB/c3T3 cells, and does not bring cells out of the growth arrest Go phase, (b) treatment with PDGF renders the cells more responsive to IL-1, (c) part of the IL-1 action on competent cells may be characterized as progression inducing activity, further, (d) our results indicate that action of IL-1 on PDGF-treated cells produces sustained DNA synthesis for an extended period, perhaps by preventing the entry of cells into growth arrest Go phase.

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