The beta-subunit of human chorionic gonadotrophin exists as a homodimer

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Butler, Stephen A. ; Laidler, Paul ; Porter, J. R. ; Kicman, Andrew T. ; Chard, Tim ; Cowan, David A. ; Iles, Ray K. (1999)
  • Publisher: Journal of Endocrinology

The free beta-subunit of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCGbeta) is well recognised as a product of many epithelial tumours. Recently, it has been shown that this ectopic production may have a functional relationship to tumour growth. The growth-promoting activity of hCGbeta may be explained by its structural similarity to a family of growth factors which all contain the same distinct topological fold known as the cystine-knot motif. Since the other members of this family all exhibit their activities as homo- and heterodimers, it is possible that the same may be true for hCGbeta. Using size-exclusion chromatography, low stringency SDS-PAGE and matrix assisted laser desorption/ionisation (MALDI) time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry (MS) we have shown that pure preparations of hCGbeta contain hCGbetabeta homodimers. Size-exclusion chromatography revealed asymmetric elution profiles with a forward peak corresponding to the size-exclusion characteristic of a globular protein with an approximate mass of 44-54 kDa and a late shoulder centered around an elution position expected for a globular protein of approximately 29 kDa. Two immunoreactive hCGbeta species, of approximately 32 and 64 kDa, were clearly resolved by SDS-PAGE and Western blotting. When analysed by MALDI-TOF MS a |mf23 kDa monomer and a |mf46 kDa dimer were identified. Formation of hCGbetabeta homodimers is consistent with the behaviour of other cystine-knot growth factors and strengthens the inclusion of the glycoprotein hormones within this superfamily. It has yet to be determined whether it is this dimeric molecular species that is responsible for growth-promoting activity of hCGbeta preparations in tumours.
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