Human chorionic gonadotropin-beta subunit gene expression in cultured human fetal and cancer cells of different types and origins

Cancer. 1995 Oct 15;76(8):1467-75. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19951015)76:8<1467::aid-cncr2820760826>;2-a.


Background: The authors' previous investigations using living cultured human cancer cells and cells isolated from cancer tissues, analytical flow cytometry, and monoclonal antibodies directed to epitopes located in five different sites of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) molecule, identified the presence of membrane-associated hCG, its subunits and fragments, by cells from all cancers, irrespective of type and origin, indicating that the expression of these sialoglycoproteins is a common phenotypic characteristic of cancer. Although benign neoplasms do not express these compounds, cultured human embryonic and fetal cells also express the same materials. To corroborate these findings, five fetal cell lines and 28 cancer cell lines were randomly selected from those previously studied, to determine the presence of translatable levels of hCG-beta (hCG beta) mRNA.

Methods: All cell lines were grown under identical conditions. Determination of hCG beta mRNA was made by extracting the total RNA from the cells, followed by synthesis of cDNA with RNase H- reverse transcriptase and polymerase chain reaction amplification using specific hCG beta-luteinizing hormone-beta (hLH beta) primers. The presence of amplified hCG beta cDNA was corroborated by hybridization of the product with an hCG beta-specific oligonucleotide and Southern blot analyses of the hybridization products. Gestational choriocarcinoma cells and HeLa adenocarcinoma of cervical cells, known producers of biologically active hCG, were positive control subjects, and human pituitary cells were used as negative control subjects.

Results: The results showed single and multiple hCG beta gene activation by the fetal cells and the different types of cancer, indicating that at any given time, there is the possibility of activation of as many as four genes of the six genes of the hCG beta-hLH beta gene cluster, even though alternative gene splicing cannot be ruled out.

Conclusions: In addition to the authors' previous findings, the results of these studies support the concept that cancer is a problem of development and differentiation, and, to the authors' knowledge, prove definitively for the first time that synthesis and expression of hCG, its subunits, and its fragments, is a common biochemical denominator of cancer, providing the scientific basis for studies of its prevention and/or control by active and/or passive immunization against these sialoglycoproteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / analysis*
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human / genetics
  • Fetus / chemistry*
  • Fetus / cytology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / chemistry*


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin, beta Subunit, Human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm