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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Mar 30;96(7):3963-8.

Loss of transformed phenotype in cancer cells by overexpression of the uteroglobin gene.

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  • 1Section on Developmental Genetics, Heritable Disorders Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1830, USA.


Uteroglobin (UG) is a multifunctional, secreted protein that has receptor-mediated functions. The human UG (hUG) gene is mapped to chromosome 11q12.2-13.1, a region frequently rearranged or deleted in many cancers. Although high levels of hUG expression are characteristic of the mucosal epithelia of many organs, hUG expression is either drastically reduced or totally absent in adenocarcinomas and in viral-transformed epithelial cells derived from the same organs. In agreement with these findings, in an ongoing study to evaluate the effects of aging on UG-knockout mice, 16/16 animals developed malignant tumors, whereas the wild-type littermates (n = 25) remained apparently healthy even after 11/2 years. In the present investigation, we sought to determine the effects of induced-expression of hUG in human cancer cells by transfecting several cell lines derived from adenocarcinomas of various organs with an hUG-cDNA construct. We demonstrate that induced hUG expression reverses at least two of the most important characteristics of the transformed phenotype (i.e., anchorage-independent growth on soft agar and extracellular matrix invasion) of only those cancer cells that also express the hUG receptor. Similarly, treatment of the nontransfected, receptor-positive adenocarcinoma cells with purified recombinant hUG yielded identical results. Taken together, these data define receptor-mediated, autocrine and paracrine pathways through which hUG reverses the transformed phenotype of cancer cells and consequently, may have tumor suppressor-like effects.

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