A cultured rat ovarian cell line (31 A-F(2)) was used to study the effect of growth factors (epidermal growth factor [EGF] and fibroblast growth factor [FGF]), a survival factor (ovarian growth factor [OGF]), a hormone (insulin), and an iron-binding protein (transferring) on cell proliferation and steroid production under defined culture conditions. EGF and insulin were shown to be mitogenic (half-maximal response at 0.12 nM and 0.11 muM, respectively) for 31A-F(2) cells incubated in serum-free medium. EGF induced up to three doublings in the cell population, whereas insulin induced an average of one cell population doubling. FGF, OGF, and transferrin were found not to have any prominent effect on cell division when incubated individually with 31A-F(2) cells in serum-free medium. However, a combination of EGF, OGF, insulin, and transferrin stimulated cell division to the same approximate extent as cells incubated in the presence of 5 percent fetal calf serum.
EGF or insulin did not significantly affect total cell cholesterol levels (relative to cells incubated in serum-free medium) when incubated individually with 31A-F(2) cells. However, cell cholesterol levels were increased by the addition of OGF (250 percent), FGF (370 percent), or a combination of insulin and EGF (320 percent). Progesterone secretion from 31A-F(2) cells was enhanced by EGF (25 percent), FGF (80 percent), and insulin (115 percent). However, the addition of a mitogenic mixture of EGF, OGF, insulin, and transferrin suppressed progesterone secretion 150 percent) below that of control cultures. These studies have permitted us to determine that EGF and insulin are mitogenic factors that are required for the growth of 31A-F(2) cells and that OGF and transferrin are positive cofactors that enhance growth. Also, additional data suggest that cholesterol and progesterone production in 31A-F(2) cells can be regulated by peptide growth factors and the hormone insulin.