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Immunology. 1993 Jun;79(2):203-10.

The interaction of Tamm-Horsfall protein with the extracellular matrix.

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Department of Medical Microbiology, UCL Medical School, London, U.K.


Tamm-Horsfall protein (THP) is the major glycoprotein component of urine, yet its biological role remains obscure. Recent reports have suggested that a concanavalin A (Con A)-binding fraction of THP from pregnancy urine can bind the cytokines tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-1 (IL-1). In order to investigate this claim in relation to THP from normal adult urine we raised monoclonal antibodies to THP and sought THP/TNF-alpha interactions in three separate assay systems. We found no evidence that THP binds to TNF-alpha under physiological conditions, but we observed that it exerts a weak, probably not physiologically relevant, but reproducible inhibitory effect on the toxicity of TNF-alpha for monolayers of L929 cells, even when the cells are pretreated with the THP, and washed before addition of the cytokine. Since our preparations of THP do not interact directly with TNF-alpha we postulated an interaction with the cells themselves, or with their extracellular matrix. The THP was found by ELISA, immunoblotting and immunohistology, to bind to as yet unidentified components of the extracellular matrix in a manner dependent on cations, pH and carbohydrates. These data, considered in the light of the published amino acid sequence and biochemical properties, suggest that THP is a member of a structural glycoprotein family known to modulate cell adhesion.

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