Human epidermal growth factor (hEGF) has previously been isolated from urine and probably is identical to human beta-urogastrone (hUG). Immunoreactive hEGF/UG has been found in the plasma of normal subjects. In this study, using immunoaffinity chromatography to extract hEGF/UG from plasma, we found that immunoreactive hEGF/UG in blood was associated with blood platelets. It was present in platelet-rich, but not platelet-poor plasma and serum, and was found predominantly in the platelet fraction of whole blood. Sephadex G-50 Fine gel-exclusion chromatography of an extract of outdated blood bank platelets revealed two hEGF/UG components, one of which eluted in the void volume, and the other of which coeluted with purified standard hEGF/UG. The former hEGF/UG component was a high-molecular weight form that was cleaved into hEGF/UG by incubation with either mouse EGF/UG-associated arginine esterase or trypsin. It appeared to be identical to the high-molecular weight hEGF/UG previously reported in human urine, except for its apparently equal activities in radioimmunoassay and radioreceptor assay. The latter hEGF/UG component was immunologically, biologically, and physiochemically indistinguishable from highly purified hEGF/UG from human urine and was immunologically different from purified human platelet-derived growth factor. Platelet-associated hEGF/UG may account for the mitogenic activity of serum in cell lines in which platelet-derived growth factor is not active. Since hEGF/UG appears to be liberated from platelets during coagulation, platelet-associated EGF/UG may be involved in normal vascular and tissue repair and in the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic lesions. The discovery that the EGF/UG in plasma is associated with blood platelets raises important new possibilities for its role in human health and disease.
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