The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 35: 209 - 214 (1991)

Vol 35, Issue 3

Special Issue: Developmental Biology in Yugoslavia

Growth factors and proto-oncogenes in early mouse embryogenesis and tumorigenesis

Published: 1 September 1991

K Pavelic, N P Slaus and R Spaventi

Ruder Boskovic Institute, Zagreb, Republic of Croatia, Yugoslavia.


Growth factors and proto-oncogenes play an important role in the regulation of embryonic growth and differentiation as well as in tumorigenesis. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF I) are secreted by embryonic tissues during the prepancreatic stage of mouse development. Measureable amounts of these factors were found in 8- to 12-day-old embryos. Embryonic cells derived from 8- to 10-day-old embryos secrete insulin and IGF I in serum-free medium. Relatively high levels of c-myc, c-fos and c-H-ras oncoproteins were also detected in 8- to 12-day-old embryos. Insulin and IGF I, when added to the culture of embryonic cells, stimulate their proliferation. Similar results were obtained in some animal or human tumors. Murine myeloid leukemias and melanoma B 16 secrete a substance immunologically cross reactive with insulin (SICRI) both in vivo and in serum-free media. In culture, the DNA synthesis rate per leukemic or melanoma cell is proportional to cell density and is reduced by antiinsulin serum in case of leukemic cells. Human hemangiosarcoma secrete IGF I, which also plays a role as an autocrine factor. Purified IGF I efficiently induce c-myc and c-fos mRNA, which is among the earliest events following growth factor stimulation, leading to mitosis. These results lead us to the conclusion that IGF I and insulin together with oncoproteins stimulate the growth of embryonic and tumor cells, which is indirect evidence for a paracrine (or autocrine) type of action.

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