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The growth inhibitory effects of vitamins K and their actions on gene expression

Authors

  • Ziqiu Wang,

    1. Pittsburgh Transplant Institute and the Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
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  • Meifang Wang,

    1. Pittsburgh Transplant Institute and the Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
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  • Frances Finn,

    1. Protein Research Laboratory and the Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
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  • Brian I. Carr MD, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Pittsburgh Transplant Institute and the Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA
    • Liver Transplantation, Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, E1552 Biomedical Science Tower, 200 Lothrop St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582
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Abstract

A characteristic defect occurs in rat and human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) resulting in a loss of function of the vitamin K-dependent enzyme gamma-glutamyl-carboxylase in the tumor but not in the underlying liver. This causes the secretion of elevated levels of the immature or des-gamma-carboxylated form of prothrombin, which is used as a marker of HCC. We investigated whether, using the defined conditions of growing HCC cell lines in tissue culture, addition of the naturally occurring vitamins K1 or K2 or the synthetic vitamin K3 could influence the secretion of immature prothrombin. We found that vitamins K1, K2, and K3 all suppressed the secretion of immature prothrombin into the tissue culture medium. Vitamins K2 and K3 were also found to inhibit growth of the HCC cell line, in an apparently nontoxic and reversible manner. The influence of the vitamins K on the expression of some genes related to vitamin K action was examined and compared with that of another growth inhibitor, TGFβ1 protein. The vitamins K were found to increase the expression of prothrombin and carboxylase messenger RNA and c-myc messenger RNA, but had no effects on the expression of TGFβ1 messenger RNA. By contrast, TGFβ1 increased TGFβ1 messenger RNA levels, but had no effects on the other genes, suggesting a different pathway. The previously studied vitamin K3-mediated inhibition of growth was antagonized by the addition of catalase to the culture medium, but the inhibitory effects of vitamin K2 were not antagonized. These experiments show that the vitamins K are a class of growth inhibitors that have a novel mechanism, possibly involving carboxylation. (Hepatology 1995; 22:876–882.)

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