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J Biol Chem. 1993 Feb 25;268(6):3817-20.

dlk, a putative mammalian homeotic gene differentially expressed in small cell lung carcinoma and neuroendocrine tumor cell line.

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  • 1Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


Gastrin releasing peptide is mitogenic for mouse Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts and certain human small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) cells but not for mouse Balb/c 3T3 fibroblasts. To identify new molecules associated with the gastrin releasing peptide-responsive phenotype, clones isolated from a differential cDNA library between Swiss and Balb/c 3T3 fibroblasts were used to screen for their expression in human SCLC cell lines. Using this approach, we have isolated and characterized human and mouse cDNA clones encoding a novel protein. This protein is a putative transmembrane protein belonging to the epidermal growth factor-like superfamily. In vitro transcription and translation studies detect a 42-kDa protein, in agreement with the size predicted from the translated cDNA sequence. This protein (termed Delta-like or dlk) is highly homologous to invertebrate homeotic proteins, including Delta, and Notch, the products of neurogenic loci involved in normal neural differentiation in Drosophila. dlk is expressed in tumors with neuroendocrine features, such as neuroblastoma, pheochromocytoma, and a subset of SCLC cell lines. However, its expression in normal tissues is restricted to the adrenal gland and placenta. These data suggest that dlk may be involved in neuroendocrine differentiation and, because of its cellular location and restricted expression in normal tissues, it may be a potential therapeutic target in neuroendocrine tumors, particularly SCLC.

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