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J Cell Sci. 1989 Mar;92 ( Pt 3):473-85.

Collagenase secretion accompanying changes in cell shape occurs only in the presence of a biologically active cytokine.

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Developmental Biology Laboratory of the Medical Services, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


We have investigated the relationship between collagenase production, cell shape and stimulatory factors in cell culture. In a homogeneous culture of primary rabbit corneal stromal cells, shape change induced by a variety of agents was not effective in stimulating collagenase secretion. Only in the presence of a biologically active cytokine or phorbol myristate acetate was a correlation seen between changes in cell shape (induced by a second agent) and collagenase secretion by these primary cells. Cell shape changes were not, however, necessary for collagenase secretion, since certain concentrations of endotoxin or lactalbumin hydrolysate effected secretion of the enzyme in the absence of morphological changes. With passaged cells or mixed cell cultures, where cell shape change did correlate with collagenase secretion without the addition of an exogenous agent, the production of an effective cytokine (autocrine or paracrine) was demonstrated. Thus cell shape change seems to be neither universally necessary nor sufficient for the stimulation of collagenase secretion. It is proposed that the function of cytokines may be more immediately related to gene expression in this system than is change in the shape of the cell. The hypothesis is presented that cell shape changes may render the target cells receptive to cytokines, perhaps by replacing the need for a natural cytokine cofactor. It is also demonstrated here that the use of passaged cells, mixed cell cultures containing endogenous cytokine-secreting cells or tissue culture additives can profoundly affect the interpretation of the effect of various agents on collagenase secretion, and may lead to observations that are not directly relevant to cell function in vivo.

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