In contrast to normal liver, it is known that in vivo hepatomas fail to decrease their rate of cholesterol biosynthesis in response to increased dietary cholesterol. From a consideration of the available data it has been hypothesized that the defect might lie in the delivery of cholesterol to the hepatoma cell. To study this further, lipoprotein interactions with rat hepatoma cells in tissue culture (HTC 7288C) and with the same cell line in vivo were investigated. HTC cells grown in a medium containing 10% calf serum exhibited saturable, specific, calcium-dependent binding of rat 125I-chylomicron remnants at 4 degrees C with half maximal saturation at 4.8 micrograms protein/ml and maximum binding of 96 ng protein/10(6) cells. At 4 degrees C, HTC cells also bound human 125I-low density lipoprotein (LDL) specifically, but bound it with a much lower affinity. These cells also exhibited specific binding for rat LDL and rat hypercholesterolemic very low density lipoprotein (VLDL). All these lipoproteins were degraded by HTC cells. Thus, it was concluded that hepatoma cells possess lipoprotein receptors that recognize and process LDL, VLDL, and chylomicron remnants. Overnight incubation of HTC cells in lipid-depleted medium containing 0.5 microM compactin increased binding of rat chylomicron remnants and of hypercholesterolemic VLDL approximately 1.7-fold without a significant change in binding affinity. LDL binding also increased, by approximately 3.5-fold. These changes were also observed when binding and internalization were measured at 37 degrees C. After HTC cells were incubated in lipid-depleted medium, the rate at which [14C]acetate was incorporated into [14C]cholesterol increased 2.5-fold. Inclusion of rat chylomicron remnants at 5-10 micrograms protein/ml prevented this increase in acetate incorporation or, if added after culture in lipid-depleted medium, reduced the increased levels back to control values. However, the rate of acetate incorporation into cholesterol by cells grown in complete medium was not decreased to levels below base line by rat chylomicron remnants. Inclusion of human LDL only partially prevented the rise or only partially reduced the increased levels back to control and did not reduce control levels below base line. Hypercholesterolemic VLDL, which contain more cholesterol per particle than chylomicron remnants, did reduce [14C]acetate incorporation to below control levels. Therefore, the intracellular mechanism for down regulation of cholesterol synthesis by lipoproteins is intact in these cells. Based on these results we hypothesized that a relative lack of lipoprotein receptors expressed by hepatomas in vivo in comparison with those expressed by normal liver would explain the apparent absence of feedback inhibition of cholesterol synthesis. Consistent with this hypothesis, the binding of chylomicron remnants to liver cell membranes was 3-5 times greater than to membranes from tumors grown in vivo subcutaneously or intramuscularly. Membranes from tumor cells grown in vitro bound remnants least well. It is proposed that the relative lack of receptors places the hepatoma at a disadvantage in competing with the liver for lipoproteins of dietary origin and may account for the lack of feedback regulation of cholesterol synthesis in hepatomas.


G F Barnard, S K Erickson, A D Cooper


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