A hereditary form of renal cell carcinoma exists in rats that results from a single gene mutation and is histologically similar to that described in humans. Cell lines derived from these rat tumors were shown to express abundant transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) and epidermal growth factor (EGF)-receptor RNA transcripts, but no EGF mRNA. In contrast, normal kidney expressed EGF and EGF-receptor transcripts, but TGF-α transcripts were barely detectable. Other kidney epithelial cell lines examined (NRK 52E, MDCK, and LLCPK) were negative for expression of both TGF-α and EGF transcripts, but expressed EGF receptors. In addition, the renal cell carcinoma-derived lines secreted TGF-α into the media. Immunohistochemistry of normal kidney with a TGF-α specific antibody revealed a characteristic pattern of staining of collecting ducts and, to a lesser degree, proximal tubules. In the neoplastic kidney tissue, both the cystic and solid portions of the tumors displayed intense immunoreactivity, indicating that altered expression of this growth factor by the transformed cells occurred in situ. These results suggest that altered TGF-α expression is an important aspect of the neoplastic phenotype in rodent as well as human renal cell carcinoma, and support the use of this hereditary rodent tumor model for studying the pathogenesis of this disease.


These studies were supported in part by the Department of Health and Human Services Grants CA-06927 and CA-43211.

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