Cells of the nonfusing muscle cell line BC3H1 stop proliferating and express a family of muscle-specific proteins when the FBS concentration is reduced from 20 to 0.5% (Munson, R., K.L. Caldwell, and L. Glaser. 1982. J. Cell Biol. 92:350-356). Several growth factors have been shown to block differentiation in this cell line. To begin to investigate the potential role of G proteins in signal transducing pathways from these receptors, we have examined the effects of cholera toxin (CT) and pertussis toxin (PT) on proliferation and differentiation in BC3H1 cells. PT specifically ADP ribosylates a protein with an apparent molecular mass of 40 kD in BC3H1 cell membranes, whereas CT specifically ADP ribosylates three proteins of 35-43 kD. When added to exponentially growing cells in 20% FBS, CT and PT inhibited [3H]thymidine incorporation by up to 75% in a dose-dependent fashion. We found the synthesis of creatine kinase (CK) and skeletal muscle myosin light chain was reversibly induced in cells in 20% FBS treated with PT, but no increased synthesis was seen in cells treated with CT or in control cells; Northern analysis indicated this induction was at the level of mRNA. In cells shifted to 0.5% FBS, CT inhibited the normally induced synthesis of CK whereas PT potentiated it by approximately 50%. Forskolin also inhibited growth in 20% FBS and differentiation in 0.5% FBS medium in a dose-dependent fashion. both forskolin and CT elevated cAMP levels compared with control or PT-treated cells, suggesting that CT is blocking proliferation and differentiation by elevating cAMP levels. These results establish that a PT-sensitive pathway is involved in regulating proliferation and differentiation in BC3H1 cells, and we postulate that PT functions by ADP ribosylating a G protein that transduces signals from growth factor receptors in these cells.

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