In the preceding report (Kelvin, D.J., G. Simard, H.H. Tai, T.P. Yamaguchi, and J.A. Connolly. 1989. J. Cell Biol. 108:159-167) we demonstrated that pertussis toxin (PT) blocked proliferation and induced differentiation in BC3H1 muscle cells. In the present study, we have used PT to examine specific growth factor signaling pathways that may regulate these processes. Inhibition of [3H]thymidine by PT in 20% FBS was reversed in a dose-dependent fashion by purified fibroblast growth factor (FGF). In 0.5% FBS, the normally induced increase in creatine kinase (CK) activity was blocked by FGF in both the presence and absence of PT. Similar results were obtained with purified epidermal growth factor (EGF). We subsequently examined the effect of a family of growth factors linked to inositol lipid hydrolysis and found that thrombin, like FGF, would increase [3H]thymidine incorporation and block CK synthesis. However, PT blocked thymidine incorporation induced by thrombin, and blocked the inhibition of CK turn-on in 0.5% FBS by thrombin. The ras oncogene, a G protein homologue, has previously been shown to block muscle cell differentiation in C2 muscle cells (Olson, E.N., G. Spizz, and M.A. Tainsky. 1987. Mol. Cell. Biol. 7:2104-2111); we have characterized a BC3H1 cell line, BCT31, which we transfected with the val12 oncogenic Harvey ras gene. This cell line did not express CK in response to serum deprivation. Whereas [3H]thymidine incorporation was inhibited by 70-80% by increasing doses of PT in control cells, BCT31 cells were only inhibited by 15-20%. ADP ribosylation studies indicate this PT-insensitivity is not because of the lack of a PT substrate in this cell line. Furthermore, PT could not induce CK expression in BCT31 cells as it did in parental cells. We conclude that there are at least two distinct growth factor pathways that play a key role in regulating proliferation and differentiation in BC3H1 muscle cells, one of which is PT sensitive, and postulate that a G protein is involved in transducing signals from the thrombin receptor. We believe that ras functions in the transduction of growth factor signals in the nonPT-sensitive pathway or downstream from the PT substrate in the second pathway.

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