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Eur J Biochem. 2002 Jan;269(1):307-16.

Growth inhibition of mammalian cells by eosinophil cationic protein.

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Department of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Faculty of Engineering, Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology,Okayama University, Japan.


Eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), one of the major components of basic granules of eosinophils, is cytotoxic to tracheal epithelium. However, the extent of this effect on other cell types has not been evaluated in vitro. In this study, we evaluated the effect of ECP on 13 mammalian cell lines. ECP inhibited the growth of several cell lines including those derived from carcinoma and leukemia in a dose-dependent manner. The IC(50) values on A431 cells, MDA-MB-453 cells, HL-60 cells and K562 cells were estimated to be approximately 1-5 microm. ECP significantly suppressed the size of colonies of A431 cells, and decreased K562 cells in G1/G0 phase. However, there was little evidence that ECP killed cells in either cell line. These effects of ECP were not enhanced by extending its N-terminus. Rhodamine B isothiocyanate-labeled ECP started to bind to A431 cells after 0.5 h and accumulated for up to 24 h, indicating that specific affinity for the cell surface may be important. The affinity of ECP for heparin was assessed and found to be reduced when tryptophan residues, one of which is located at a position in the catalytic subsite of ribonuclease in ECP, were modified. The growth-inhibitory effect was also attenuated by this modification. These results suggest that growth inhibition by ECP is dependent on cell type and is cytostatic.

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