A retinoid responsive cytokine gene, MK, is preferentially expressed in the proximal tubules of the kidney and human tumor cell lines

Am J Pathol. 1993 Feb;142(2):425-31.


The aim of this study was to survey the expression of an embryonic cytokine gene, MK, in the normal organs and neoplastic tissues of adults. Northern analysis showed that MK mRNA was exclusively expressed in the kidney among murine organs including thymus, lung, heart, spleen, liver, and kidney. In situ hybridization analysis revealed that MK expression was localized in the proximal tubules and metaplastic Bowman's epithelium, but not in other nephron segments such as glomeruli, loop of Henle, distal tubules, and collecting ducts. To investigate whether MK expression is a marker of tubular cell lineage, several cell lines originating from renal tubules were tested. No expression of MK was detected in PtK1 and LLC-PK1 cells derived from marsupial and porcine proximal tubules or in MDBK and MDCK cells from bovine and canine distal/collecting tubules. Unexpectedly, the MK gene was expressed in a human renal cell carcinoma line, VMRC-RCW, and the expression was up-regulated in the presence of retinoic acid. To elucidate the involvement of MK in the development of tumors, we further examined its expression in a variety of human neoplastic cell lines: YMB-1-C (breast cancer), EBC-1 (lung squamous cell carcinoma), RERF-LC-OK (lung adenocarcinoma), SBC-3 (lung small cell carcinoma), HSC-2 (mouth squamous cell carcinoma), NUGC-2 (gastric cancer), COLO201 (colon cancer), HepG2 (hepatoma), MIA PaCa-2 (pancreatic cancer), MCAS (ovarian cancer), HeLa (cervical cancer), BeWo (chorionic carcinoma), ITO-II (testicular tumor), T24 (urinary bladder tumor), and G-401 (Wilms' tumor). Strong signals were detected in COLO201, HepG2, ITO-II, T24, G-401, and weaker but distinct signals were detected in YMB-1-C, HSC-2, and MCAS cells. The MK gene was, therefore, widely expressed in neoplastic cells originating from genital organs, intestinal tract, liver, mammary gland, and urinary tract, and the expression was not restricted to adenocarcinomas, but was also observed in other types of tumor cells. These findings suggest that a retinoic acid responsive gene, MK, may play a role in the pathophysiology of renal proximal tubules and tumorigenesis in many types of neoplasms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genes / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / cytology
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Retinoids / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Cytokines
  • Retinoids