The striking clinical response of hairy cell leukemia to α-interferon led us to investigate the effects of interferon on hairy cells in vitro. We examined the nature of protein induction by interferon in the target hairy cells. To do this, we analyzed whole cell lysates of hairy cells from 11 patients by one-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. With this method, we showed the induction of 16 proteins, which ranged from Mr 140,000 to 12,000. Exposure to α-interferon caused very rapid induction of specific proteins in hairy cells, and induction continued for at least 9 days. Proteins were induced at extremely low interferon concentrations, and a dose-response effect was seen with increasing concentrations. A larger number of proteins was induced in hairy cells than in other lymphoid cells under the same conditions. Induction of most proteins was inhibited by actinomycin D, showing that new messenger RNA synthesis was required for their induction to occur. The number or pattern of induced proteins, or their prolonged induction, may be relevant to a change in the target hairy cells which is part of the process resulting in the antiproliferative effect of interferon in hairy cell leukemia.

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This investigation was supported in part by USPHS Grant CA 19266-08 from the NIH and by American Cancer Society Institutional Grant IN-41-Y-20.

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