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J Biol Chem. 2002 Sep 27;277(39):35990-8. Epub 2002 Jul 16.

Midkine binds to anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) and acts as a growth factor for different cell types.

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  • 1Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D. C. 20007, USA.


Midkine (MK) is a developmentally regulated, secreted growth factor homologous to pleiotrophin (PTN). To investigate the potential role of MK in tumor growth, we expressed MK in human SW-13 cells and studied receptor binding, signal transduction, and activity of MK. The MK protein stimulates soft agar colony formation in vitro and tumor growth of SW-13 cells in athymic nude mice, as well as proliferation of human endothelial cells from brain microvasculature and umbilical vein (HUVEC) in the low ng/ml range. MK binds to anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), the receptor for PTN, with an apparent K(d) of 170 pm in intact cells, and this receptor binding of MK is competed by PTN with an apparent K(d) of approximately 20 pm. Monoclonal antibodies raised against the extracellular ligand-binding domain of ALK inhibit ALK receptor binding of MK as well as MK-stimulated colony formation of SW-13 cells. Furthermore, MK stimulates ALK phosphorylation in WI-38 human fibroblasts and activates PI3-kinase and MAP kinase signal transduction in WI-38, HUVEC, neuroblastoma (SH SY-5Y) and glioblastoma (U87MG) cells that express the ALK protein. We conclude that MK can act as a growth, survival, and angiogenic factor during tumorigenesis and signals through the ALK receptor.

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