Studies of humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy (HHM) have provided evidence that tumors produce a protein that acts through the parathyroid (PTH) receptor but is immunologically distinct from PTH. We have recently purified and cloned a parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) implicated in HHM from a human lung cancer cell line (BEN). Full-length cDNA clones have been isolated and found to encode a prepropeptide of 36 amino acids and a mature protein of 141 amino acids. Eight of the first 13 amino-terminal residues are identical with human PTH, although antisera directed to the amino-terminus of PTHrP do not recognize PTH. The striking homology with PTH about the amino-terminal region is not maintained in the remainder of the molecule. PTHrP therefore represents a previously unrecognized hormone. A 34-amino acid synthetic peptide, PTHrP(1-34) was 2–4 times more potent than bovine or human PTH(1-34) in bioassays promoting the formation of cAMP and plasminogen activity in osteogenic sarcoma cells and activation of adenylate cyclase in chick kidney membranes. Like PTH, PTHrP peptides of less than 30 residues from the amino-terminus showed substantially reduced activity. PTHrP(1-34) was also more potent than hPTH(1-34) in stimulating cAMP and phosphate excretion and reducing calcium excretion in the isolated perfused rat kidney. Immunohistochemical localization of PTHrP was consistently demonstrated in squamous cell carcinomas. In normal tissues PTHrP has been immunohistochemically localized in keratinocytes and PTHrP-like activity has been extracted from ovine placenta and fetal ovine parathyroids. PTHrP and PTH may be related by a process of gene duplication with PTHrP being the original hormone carrying out a fundamental physiological role, and from which PTH has evolved.

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