Objectives: Elucidation of the mechanisms of the previously shown growth-inhibitory action of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) on Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) cells and the role of the luteinizing hormone/hCG receptor (hCGR).
Design and methods: Analysis of KS tissues and cultured spindle-type KS cells for the presence of the hCGR using 125I-hCG binding and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction; analysis of several hCG preparations (urinary, recombinant, isolated alpha and beta subunits); analysis of apoptosis mechanisms by several assays including using z-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone (zVAD-FMK), a known apoptosis-inhibitory drug.
Results: First, we found that some urinary preparations of hCG (e.g., CG-10, Steris Profasi) were indeed KS-killing but others (such as Pregnyl, Choragon, Serono Profasi) were not. Secondly, recombinant subunits (alpha as well as beta) of hCG were KS cell-killing but recombinant intact hCG was not. Thirdly, the hCGR message and protein were undetectable in KS. Fourthly, CG10-induced cell death occurred by apoptosis and KS cells could be rescued by preincubation with zVAD-FMK. Finally, we also found that normal peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) were killed by CG-10.
Conclusion: It is proposed that the action of subunits or subunit fragments of hCG, mediated by a putative orphan receptor (as opposed to the hCGR) and executed by interleukin-1-converting enzyme (ICE)-like protease(s), constitutes a novel apoptosis mechanism effective towards KS cells, but PBLs and possibly other cells as well. These results provide a basis for testing in vitro the therapeutic efficacy of hCG preparations which, in turn, should improve current clinical trials with 'hCG' in patients who have KS.