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Reproduction. 2003 Feb;125(2):271-84.

Establishment of a recombinant expression system for connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) that models CTGF processing in utero.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) stimulates cell proliferation, migration, adhesion and extracellular matrix production, and functions in processes such as development, differentiation, angiogenesis, implantation, wound healing and fibrosis. CTGF is a 38 kDa protein that comprises four discrete structural modules (modules 1-4) but is susceptible to limited proteolysis in utero yielding bioactive isoforms that comprise either modules 3 and 4 (16-20 kDa) or module 4 (10 kDa). Here we report the development of a stable cell line, termed DB1, that was generated by transfecting cDNA encoding full-length human CTGF into Chinese hamster ovary cells that were mutant for heparin sulphate and chondroitin sulphate. DB1 cells produced 38 kDa CTGF and low molecular mass CTGFs that had N-termini between modules 2 and 3 at Ala(181) (20 kDa), Leu(184) (18 kDa) or Ala(197) (16 kDa) or between modules 3 and 4 at Gly(253) (10 kDa). CTGF was exported from DB1 cells as early as 5 min after synthesis and all isoforms were readily purified from conditioned medium by sequential steps of heparin affinity, cation exchange, and reverse-phase chromatography. The 38 kDa CTGF was faithfully glycosylated and underwent limited proteolysis in the presence of thrombin, kallikrein or uterine fluids, the last of which was antagonized by anti-thrombin III. All CTGF isoforms promoted cell adhesion, mitosis and epithelial transdifferentiation in vitro as well as subcutaneous fibrosis in vivo. The establishment of this recombinant expression system allows for mass-scale production of all previously reported uterine CTGF isoforms, demonstrates that module 4 contains functional domains involved in a broad range of biological activities, and will facilitate studies of CTGF processing in vitro.

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