A cloned line of mouse hepatoma cells (Hepa-1) responded to treatment with dexamethasone by a 30-80-fold increase in synthesis and secretion of functional haptoglobin. Under the same conditions, the production of albumin was only slightly elevated whereas that of alpha 1-fetoprotein was reduced by 50%. The hormone concentration for half-maximal stimulation of haptoglobin synthesis was between 1 and 2 X 10(-8) M. The time course of induction is characteristic for a glucocorticoid-regulated protein. Cell-free translation of RNA indicated an increase in the amount of functional haptoglobin mRNA that can account for the change in the protein production. To correlate our findings on Hepa-1 cells with those on nontransformed liver cells, we tested the hormonal response of isolated hepatocytes in tissue culture. Haptoglobin was first synthesized and secreted by hepatocytes from 17-19-d-old fetuses. But neither prenatal nor adult hepatocytes showed a dexamethasone-dependent increase in haptoglobin synthesis. However, when several independent clones of hybrid cells formed from adult mouse hepatocytes and rat hepatoma cells were treated with dexamethasone, the synthesis of mouse haptoglobin was in all cases elevated. It appears that haptoglobin expression in mouse liver cells is potentially sensitive to glucocorticoids, but this modulation is manifested only in transformed cells and their derivatives.

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