To characterize genes that become upregulated with malignant transformation of human hepatocytes, a library of monoclonal antibodies was produced against the FOCUS hepatocellular carcinoma cell line. Antibody FB-50 reacted with an antigen that was highly expressed in 4 of 10 primary hepatocellular carcinomas, in all 20 cholangiocarcinomas we studied, and in a variety of transformed cell lines. This antigen was also highly expressed in neoplastic epithelial cells of breast and colon carcinomas in contrast to its low level of expression in normal hepatocytes and in non-neoplastic epithelial cells. Among the normal adult tissues studied, high levels were observed only in proliferating trophoblastic cells of the placenta and in adrenal glands. A 636-bp partial cDNA, isolated from a gamma GT11 expression library generated with HepG2 human hepatoblastoma cells, and a complete cDNA, generated by reverse transcriptase-PCR, identified the antigen as the human form of aspartyl(asparaginyl)beta-hydroxylase. This enzyme catalyzes posttranslational hydroxylation of beta carbons of specific aspartyl and asparaginyl residues in EGF-like domains of certain proteins. Analyses of extracts prepared from several human tumor cell lines compared to their normal tissue counterparts indicate that the increase in hydroxylase, approximately 10-fold, is controlled at the level of transcription and the protein is expressed in an enzymatically active form. In similar analyses, comparing hepatocellular carcinomas to adjacent uninvolved liver from five patients, enzymatic activity was much higher in the tumor tissue from the four patients whose immunoblots revealed increased hydroxylase protein in the malignant tissue. EGF repeats in the extracellular domain of Notch or its homologs contain the consensus sequence for hydroxylation. Deletion mutants lacking this domain are gain-of-function mutants, suggesting that the domain modulates signal transduction by the cytoplasmic domain. While the function imparted by beta hydroxylation is unknown, our studies raise the possibility that beta hydroxylation is regulated in proteins like the mammalian Notch homologs, whose cytoplasmic domains have been shown to be oncogenic.
L Lavaissiere, S Jia, M Nishiyama, S de la Monte, A M Stern, J R Wands, P A Friedman