Insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) mRNA was increased in two of eight neuroblastomas and in eight of eight pheochromocytomas, tumors of the adrenal medulla that occur in childhood and adulthood, respectively. RNA encoding the type I IGF receptor, the receptor thought to mediate the mitogenic effects of IGF-I and IGF-II, also was uniformly expressed in these cells. To assess the role of IGF-II in the growth of these tumor cells, we have used the SK-N-AS cultured neuroblastoma cell line, which can be continuously propagated in mitogen-free medium, as a model system. Our results strongly suggest that IGF-II, synthesized by SK-N-AS cells and acting through type I IGF receptors, contributes to the autonomous growth of this tumor cell line. (a) SK-N-AS cells synthesized large amounts of IGF-II RNA and secreted > 50 ng/ml of IGF-II (as determined by specific radioimmuno- and radioreceptor assays). Little, if any, IGF-I RNA or immunoreactive IGF-I were detected. (b) SK-N-AS cells possess type I IGF receptors. (c) Exogenous IGF-I and IGF-II stimulated DNA synthesis in SK-N-AS cells, and this stimulation was abolished by a blocking antibody to the type I IGF receptor. (d) This anti-receptor antibdy also abolished the multiplication of SK-N-AS cells in the absence of added mitogens. We conclude that IGF-II is an autocrine growth factor for SK-N-AS cells and suggest that this mechanism may contribute to the growth of some adrenal medullary tumors.
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