We studied the synthesis and secretion of alpha-2-macroglobulin by cultures of human adherent cells. Much more alpha-2-macroglobulin (measured by radioimmunoassay) accumulated in media of established strains of adherent cells derived from embryonic lung than in media of established strains derived from adult skin or rheumatoid synovium. Alpha-2-macroglobulin accumulated in media of primary cultures of adherent cells from a variety of embryonic tissues. However, the amount of alpha-2-macroglobulin accumulating in media of subsequent passage of these cells declined for all strains except those derived from lung. Immunodiffusion and double-antibody immunoprecipitation studies of cell extracts and media after incubation of cells with l-[35S]methionine supported the radioimmunoassay finding that adherent cells from lung synthesized and secreted more alpha-2-macroglobulin than adherent cells from skin. Intracellular alpha-2-macroglobulin could not be detected by radio-immunoassay or visualized by immunofluorescent microscopy, suggesting that synthesized alpha-2-macroglobulin is rapidly secreted. Plasminogen-rich fibrin clots were lysed in culture media of adherent cells from embryonic lung and, to a lesser extent, heart. Adherent cells from other tissues, which produced less alpha-2-macroglobulin, did not lyse fibrin clots. However, all cultures of adherent cells contained pericellular fibronectin, a large, external, transformation-sensitive glycoprotein known to be cleaved by plasmin. We speculate that production of alpha-2-macroglobulin may be a means for protease-secreting normal cells to preserve cell surface integrity and that alpha-2-macroglobulin synthesized locally in lung may protect lung tissues from a variety of proteases.
Deane F. Mosher, Olli Saksela, Antti Vaheri