Interaction of high-molecular-weight basic fibroblast growth factor with endothelium: Biological activity and intracellular fate of human recombinant Mr 24,000 bFGF

A. Gualandris, C. Urbinati, M. Rusnati, M. Ziche, M. Presta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The single-copy gene of human basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) encodes four co-expressed isoforms, with an apparent molecular weight (Mr) of 24 kD, 22.5 kD, 22 kD, and 18 kD, co-translated from a single mRNA. As a tool for the study of the role exerted by the different bFGF isoforms in the biology of endothelial cells, human recombinant 24-kD bFGF was produced and purified from transformed Escherichia coli cells. To this purpose, the novel CUG start codon present in human bFGF cDNA and responsible for the synthesis of 24-kD bFGF was mutaC genized to the classic AUG start codon. Transient expression of the mutagenized cDNA in simian COS-1 cells, followed by immunolocalization and subcellular fractionation, resulted in the synthesis of high levels of 24-kD bFGF, which localizes in the cell nucleus as an intact protein. When the same 24-kD bFGF cDNA was expressed in E. coli, the recombinant protein was purified to homogeneity by heparin-Sepharose and ion-exchange chromatography. Recombinant 24-kD bFGF was similar to recombinant 18-kD bFGF in receptor-binding activity and in inducing cell proliferation, plasminogen activator production, and chemotactic movement in cultured endothelial cells. In agreement with the in vitro observations, 24-kD bFGF and 18-kD bFGF exerted a similar angiogenic response when assayed in vivo in the rabbit cornea. Experiments performed with the radiolabeled molecule demonstrated that 24-kD bFGF has an intrinsic ability to bind to high-affinity receptors when added to endothelial GM 7373 cell cultures. Receptor-bound 24-kD bFGF is internalized within the cell and associates with the nucleus with kinetics similar to 18-kD bFGF. Internalized 24-kD bFGF is first processed to the 18-kD form via a chloroquine-insensitive pathway and then to smaller fragments into the lysosomal compartment. At variance with the data obtained in transfected COS-1 cells, only limited amounts of exogenous internalized 24-kD bFGF associates with the nucleus in the intact form, mostly of the nuclear-bound molecule being represented by the processed 18-kD protein and by smaller degradation products. In conclusion, human recombinant 24-kD bFGF exerts a biological response in endothelial cells similar to 18-kD bFGF both in vitro and in vivo. Our data point to a different intracellular behavior of the high-molecular-weight bFGF isoform when added exogenously to cultured cells or when produced endogenously in transfected cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-159
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Physiology


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