A clonal strain of human lung tumor cells in culture (ChaGo), derived from a bronchogenic carcinoma, synthesizes and secretes large amounts of alpha (alpha) and a comparatively lower level of beta (beta) subunit of the glycoprotein hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). ChaGo cells lost their characteristic anchorage-independent growth phenotype in the presence of anti-alpha-HCG antibody. The effect of the antibody was partially reversed by addition of alpha-HCG to the culture medium. ChaGo cells were transfected with an expression vector (pRSV-anti-alpha-HCG), that directs synthesis of RNA complementary to alpha-HCG mRNA. The transfectants produced alpha-HCG antisense RNA which was associated with the reduced level of alpha-HCG. Transfectants also displayed several altered phenotypic properties, including altered morphology, less mitosis, reduced growth rate, loss of anchorage-independent growth, and loss of tumorigenicity in nude mice. Treatment of transfectants with 8,bromo-cAMP resulted in increased accumulation of alpha-HCG mRNA, no change in the level of alpha-HCG antisense RNA, release of the inhibition of [3H]thymidine incorporation, and restoration of anchorage-independent growth phenotype. The overexpression of c-myc, observed in ChaGo cells, was unaffected by the reduced level of alpha-HCG. These results suggest that ectopic synthesis of the alpha subunit of HCG plays a functional role in the transformation of these human lung cells.

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