To define the role of neuropeptides in lung cancer biology, we evaluated the effect of seven peptide classes on signal transduction and growth in human lung and breast cancer cell lines. Flow cytometric methods were used to quantitate the calcium response in individual cells produced by these peptides alone or in combination. The effects on growth were assessed by [3H]thymidine, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide, and soft agarose colony assays. All lung cancer cells demonstrated calcium responses to one or more peptides with classic small cell lines displaying the greatest responsiveness, followed by variant small cell lines and non-small cell lines. Breast cancer cell lines demonstrated little or no response. There was great variability in the magnitude of calcium response and pattern of response between lung cancer cell lines to individual neuropeptides. Bradykinin was the most potent peptide and produced responses in the highest fraction of lung cancer cell lines. Combinations of peptides produced greater intracellular calcium release than the single peptides, although in less than a quantitatively additive manner. Each peptide produced a refractory period which was peptide class specific. The growth stimulating effects of these neuropeptides were absent or small in magnitude and did not correlate with calcium signal transduction. These results imply that lung cancer cells display a wide sensitivity to neuropeptides but in a very heterogeneous manner. Knowledge of this heterogeneity should be incorporated into the design of antitumor strategies based on this autocrine pathway.


Supported in part by Grants 1 U01 CA 46088-01 and 1 P30 CA 46934.

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