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Molecular mechanisms of tumor promotion and multistage carcinogenesis.


Carcinogenesis is a multistep process resulting from a complex interaction between multiple factors, both environmental and exogenous. In contract to initiating agents that act by damaging cellular DNA, the primary targets of the phorbol ester tumor promoters are membrane-associated receptors. We have proposed a stereochemical model to explain the interaction of these amphiphilic molecules, and of teleocidin and aplysiatoxin, with this receptor system. The model is consistent with evidence that a complex between protein kinase C and phospholipid is the actual receptor for these compounds. Recent data we have obtained with a compound present in tung oil, 12-O-hexadecanoyl-16-hydroxyphorbol-13-acetate (HHPA), and twelve of its congener's (provided by Y. Ito et al.) are also consistent with our stereochemical model. We have studied phorbol ester receptors in a wide variety of tissue culture cell types. Our data, together with other findings, provide evidence for considerable receptor heterogeneity and this may relate to the pleiotropic effects of these compounds. We have found a case of "masked" receptors in a rat liver cell line and shown that it is due to a cell-associated esterase. Normal human melanocyte cultures contain phorbol ester receptors and this is of particular interest since these cells actually require these or related compounds for optimal growth (in collaboration with M. Eisinger). The receptor studies provide clues to how tumor promoters can, via inductive mechanisms, produce alterations in the structure and function of cell membranes. It is not known, however, how in the multistep carcinogenic process promoters enhance the eventual outgrowth of permanently altered tumor cells. We have found that TPA and teleocidin produce a marked enhancement of transformation of C3H 10T1/2 cells induced by transfection with h-ras human bladder cancer oncogene. These and other results are discussed in terms of the role of alterations in cellular oncogenes and transcriptional enhancer sequences during multistage carcinogenesis.

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