Cyanogen bromide-cleaved epidermal growth factor (CNBr-EGF) binds to EGF receptors with reduced affinity compared to the native hormone but fails to induce DNA synthesis. However, at similar receptor occupancy, CNBr-EGF is as potent as EGF in activating early cell responses to the hormone. The phosphorylation of membrane proteins, the stimulation of Na+-K+-ATPase as reflected by the ouabain-sensitive uptake of 86Rb of fibroblasts, changes in the organization of microfilaments and in cell-morphology, and the activation of the enzyme ornithine-decarboxylase are all induced by CNBr-EGF as well as EGF Our results are consistent with the notion that EGF-induced phosphorylation could act as a "second messenger" for the action of various EGF-induced responses such as activation of Na+-K+-ATPase, changes in the cytoskeleton and cell morphology, and the activation of the enzyme ornithine decarboxylase. However, the stimulation of phosphorylation of membrane proteins and other early responses are either not required or necessary but insufficient for the induction of DNA synthesis. Suboptimal concentrations of EGF together with CNBr-EGF stimulate DNA synthesis in human fibroblasts. Other growth factors such as insulin, fibroblast growth factor, and prostaglandin F2 alpha, which potentiate the mitogenic response of EGF, do not effect the response to CNBr-EGF. This suggests that the restoration of the mitogenic properties of CNBr-EGF by suboptimal doses of EGF occurs at the level of EGF receptors or during their processing.

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