Cultured bovine capillary endothelial (BCE) cells produce low levels of collagenolytic activity and significant amounts of the serine protease plasminogen activator (PA). When grown in the presence of nanomolar quantities of the tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA), BCE cells produced 5-15 times more collagenolytic activity and 2-10 times more PA than untreated cells. The enhanced production of these enzymes was dependent on the dose of TPA used, with maximal response at 10(-7) to 10(-8) M. Phorbol didecanoate (PDD), an analog of TPA which is an active tumor promoter, also increased protease production. 4-O-methyl-TPA and 4α-PDD, two analogs of TPA which are inactive as tumor promoters, had no effect on protease production. Increased PA and collagenase activities were detected within 7.5 and 19 h, respectively, after the addition of TPA. The TPA-stimulated BCE cells synthesized a urokinase-type PA and a typical vertebrate collagenase.

BCE cells were compared with bovine aortic endothelial (BAE) cells and bovine embryonic skin (BES) fibroblasts with respect to their production of protease in response to TPA. Under normal growth conditions, low levels of collagenolyic activity were detected in the culture fluids from BCE, BAE, and BES cells. BCE cells produced 5-13 times the basal levels of collagenolytic activity in response to TPA, whereas BAE cells and BES fibroblasts showed a minimal response to TPA. Both BCE and BAE cells exhibited relatively high basal levels of PA, the production of which was stimulated approximately threefold by the addition of TPA. The observation that BCE cells and not BAE cells produced high levels of both PA and collagenase activities in response to TPA demonstrates a significant difference between these two types of endothelial cells and suggests that the enhanced detectable activities are a property unique to bovine capillary and microvessel and endothelial cells.

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