The growth of rat glioma C6 cells, which provide an in vitro model of glial cells, is inhibited by retinoic acid and glucocorticoids, two agents which are important in brain differentiation and growth. To determine whether the growth-inhibitory effects of these agents are mediated by alterations in insulinlike growth factor I (IGF-I) production, the effects of retinoic acid and dexamethasone on IGF-I production and messenger RNA levels in C6 cells were investigated. IGF-I mRNA levels were determined using a solution hybridization/RNase protection assay. Treatment of C6 cells with dexamethasone or retinoic acid decreased IGF-I mRNA levels in a time-dependent fashion. The time course of the effect of the two agents differed, with the peak effect of dexamethasone between 6 and 12 h and the peak effect of retinoic acid at 27 h. In dose-response studies, IGF-I mRNA levels decreased to 27% of control levels (cells maintained in serum-free media) after treatment with 5 ng/ml dexamethasone, while half-maximal inhibition was achieved with approximately 0.5 ng/ml (1.4 nM) dexamethasone. Treatment with 10 μM retinoic acid decreased IGF-I mRNA levels to 24% of control levels with half-maximal inhibition occurring with approximately 0.5 μM retinoic acid. Cycloheximide prevented the inhibitory effect of these agents on IGF-I mRNA levels, suggesting that their effect is at least partly dependent upon protein synthesis. Immunoreactive IGF-I levels in media conditioned for 48 h by cells treated with dexamethasone or retinoic acid decreased to 32% and 42% of control levels, respectively. Treatment of C6 cells with retinoic acid or dexamethasone decreased thymidine incorporation into DNA. Treatment of cells with IGF-I alone had no effect on thymidine incorporation into DNA, but addition of 10 or 50 ng/ml IGF-I to dexamethasone-treated cells stimulated a small, but significant (P < 0.01), increase in thymidine incorporation into DNA. IGF-I was not, however, able to reverse the inhibitory effect of retinoic acid. Finally, treatment of cells with 150 ng/ml of IGF binding protein 1 significantly decreased (P < 0.01) thymidine incorporation into DNA by 17% as compared to incorporation into control cells maintained in serum- free media. While the role of IGF-I in retinoic acid-induced alterations in C6 cell growth is unclear, the ability of IGF-I to partially reverse the dexamethasone-induced inhibition of thymidine incorporation into DNA suggests that the inhibitory effect of dexamethasone on C6 cell growth may be mediated in part by alterations in IGF-I production and that, taken together with the effect of IGF binding protein 1 on thymidine incorporation into DNA, IGF-I may be an autocrine/paracrine growth factor in these cells.
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