The possible production of gastrin by colorectal carcinomas has been studied. Extracts of 44 tumours and adjacent macroscopically normal tissue were examined in radioimmunoassay using the following antibodies: (i) L289 raised to a C-terminal fragment of progastrin which shows specificity for intact progastrin, but not the extreme C-terminal tryptic peptide; (ii) LW60 raised to a C-terminal fragment of progastrin which reacts with progastrin and its C-terminal tryptic peptide; (iii) 109-21 which was raised to, and reacts with, Gly-extended forms of heptadecapeptide gastrin--that is, biosynthetic intermediates on the pathway producing active gastrin; and (iv) L2 which reacts with amidated, biologically active gastrins. All samples contained detectable material in assays using LW60; in general, concentrations measured with this antibody were higher than with the other antibodies, and in particular there were higher concentrations in tumour compared with normal tissue extracts. Tumour extracts also contained higher concentrations of immunoreactivity compared with normal tissue, in assays using antibodies L289 and 109-21. In contrast, amidated gastrins were found in similar concentrations in tumour and normal tissue, and concentrations were the lowest of those recorded in the four assays. Separation on Sephadex G50 revealed peaks compatible with progastrin and its C-terminal flanking peptide, and two other peaks that are so far unidentified. In conclusion most colorectal carcinomas contain peptides derived from the gastrin precursor, progastrin, but for the most part these tumours do not convert progastrin into biologically active products.
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