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An analysis of the effects of oncogenes and growth factors on rat adrenal cortex cells MacAuley, Iain Alasdair Somerled


The process of oncogenic transformation in vitro has been examined in an attempt to define the molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis. Transformation in Ki-MSV-infected rat adrenal cortex cells appears to be a multistep process (Auersperg et al., 1981), as does the process of transformation in other nonestablished cells (Land et at., 1983b). The Ki-MSV-infected adrenal cortex cells initially express a partially transformed phenotype and after further passaging progress to a highly transformed phenotype (Calderwood and Auersperg, 1984). Examination of Ki-MSV-infected adrenal cortex cells indicated that progression to a highly transformed phenotype could occur in the absence of significant changes in the level of the expression of the viral ras oncogene. These results indicated that an oncogenically activated ras gene could be expressed in these nonestablished cells in the absence of transformation. Since ras and myc cooperate to transform primary fibroblasts the effect of the co-introduction of myc on Ki-MSV-induced transformation of adrenal cortex cells was examined. It could be demonstrated that myc and ras cooperate to transform the adrenal cortex cells more efficiently than either oncogene alone, but that the infected cultures initially only express some of the phenotypes associated with transformation. The appearance of a fully transformed phenotype, as monitored by growth in soft agar, was not expressed until several passages after infection. An analysis of the Ki-MSV/MMCV-infected cultures indicated that some of the phenotypes associated with activated oncogenes in immortalized cell lines appeared to be suppressed in the coinfected adrenal cortex cells. Transformation by ras and myc appears to require a further cellular change resulting in a loss of the suppression of oncogene action. The emergence of transformed cultures from the Ki-MSV-infected rat adrenal cortex cells was correlated with the reduced expression of a novel ras-related protein of 27000 Mr. Transformation induced by src and myc was also examined. These two oncogenes appeared to cooperate in a two step pathway of transformation that was not susceptible to cellular suppression. The transformed phenotype did not appear to be entirely free of external influence as the growth rate of the transformed cells could be modified by culture conditions. The ability of myc to cooperate with src and ras in the transformation of the early passage adrenal cortex cells provides further support for mutistep carcinogenesis. The effect of oncogenes on steroidogenesis was examined in the Y-1 adrenocortical tumour cell line. The effect of the virally borne oncogenes on growth and morphology of the Y-1 cells was relatively subtle. The oncogenes appear to stimulate the production of fluorogenic steroids, each in a distinct fashion. A model of transformation can be derived in which the roles of the oncogenes and their interaction with the cell can be evaluated. The differences in the pathways of transformation for the two combinations of oncogenes illustrates the potential complexity of the transformation process and provides an in vitro model system for further study.

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