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Mol Biol Cell. 1999 May;10(5):1429-44.

Nuclear activities of basic fibroblast growth factor: potentiation of low-serum growth mediated by natural or chimeric nuclear localization signals.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, New York University Medical Center, New York, New York 10016, USA.


Human basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) occurs in four isoforms: a low molecular weight (LMW FGF-2, 18 kDa) and three high molecular weight (HMW FGF-2, 22, 22.5, and 24 kDa) forms. LMW FGF-2 is primarily cytoplasmic and functions in an autocrine manner, whereas HMW FGF-2s are nuclear and exert activities through an intracrine, perhaps nuclear, pathway. Selective overexpression of HMW FGF-2 forms in fibroblasts promotes growth in low serum, whereas overexpression of LMW FGF-2 does not. The HMW FGF-2 forms have two functional domains: an amino-terminal extension and a common 18-kDa amino acid sequence. To investigate the role of these regions in the intracrine signaling of HMW FGF-2, we produced stable transfectants of NIH 3T3 fibroblasts overexpressing either individual HMW FGF-2 forms or artificially nuclear-targeted LMW FGF-2. All of these forms of FGF-2 localize to the nucleus/nucleolus and induce growth in low serum. The nuclear forms of FGF-2 trigger a mitogenic stimulus under serum starvation conditions and do not specifically protect the cells from apoptosis. These data indicate the existence of a specific role for nuclear FGF-2 and suggest that LMW FGF-2 represents the biological messenger in both the autocrine/paracrine and intracrine FGF-2 pathways.

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