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Oncogene. 1999 Oct 14;18(42):5747-55.

4HPR triggers apoptosis but not differentiation in retinoid sensitive and resistant human embryonal carcinoma cells through an RARgamma independent pathway.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.


Retinoids signal biological effects through retinoic acid receptors (RAR) and retinoid X receptors (RXR) and their co-regulators. We previously reported that all-trans retinoic acid (RA) triggers terminal differentiation in the human embryonal carcinoma cell line NTERA-2 clone D1 (NT2/D1), through an RARgamma dependent pathway. RARgamma repression in NT2/D1-R1 cells accounts for RA resistance in this line. This report finds RARgamma repression is due to selective repression of RARgamma but not RARbeta transcription in NT2/D1-R1 cells. The repression is neither due to mutations in RARgamma nor its promoter containing the RA response element. Prior work was confirmed and extended by demonstrating that an RARgamma selective agonist preferentially signals differentiation of NT2/D1 cells, while RARalpha/beta, RARbeta, RXR agonists and an RAR pan-antagonist do not even when NT2/D1 cells are treated with these retinoids at 10 microM dosages. None of these examined retinoids induced differentiation of the RA resistant NT2/D1-R1 cells. In contrast, N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide (4HPR), a reported transcriptional activator of RARgamma was shown to potently induce growth inhibition and apoptosis in both NT2/D1 and NT2/D1-R1 cells. 4HPR-induced apoptosis was unaffected by co-treatment of both cell lines with equimolar RAR antagonist. Semi-quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT - PCR) assays of total RNA from 4HPR-treated NT2/D1 and NT2/D1-R1 cells did not reveal RARgamma induction. Since 4HPR signals in RA-resistant NT2/D1-R1 cells having an RARgamma transcriptional block, these results indicate that 4HPR triggers apoptosis but not differentiation through an RARgamma independent pathway. Taken together, these findings implicate a therapeutic role for 4HPR mediated apoptosis in germ cell tumors even when a maturation block is present.

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