Distribution of the Folate Receptor GP38 in Normal and Malignant Cell Lines and Tissues

Steven D. Weitman, Richard H. Lark, Leslie R. Coney, Daniel W. Fort, Verna Frasca, Vincent R. Zurawski, Barton A. Kamen

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974 Scopus citations


In some epithelial cells studied in vitro a membrane-bound folate receptor initiates the process for cell accumulation of 5-methyltetrahy-drofolic acid. This receptor was found to be GP38, an overexpressed, glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol anchored glycoprotein, recognized by two monoclonal antibodies, designated MOvl8 and MOvl9. Using immuno-blotting with MOvl9, radioimmunoassay with MOvl8 and 19, Northern blot analysis, and radioligand binding when possible, we describe the limited expression of the folate receptor in a large number of normal tissues from four autopsies. The immunoblot technique detected as little as 40 pg (si fmol) of receptor protein. Choroid plexus consistently had the largest amount of folate receptor. Other tissues containing substantial amounts of receptor included lung, thyroid, and kidney. The liver, intestines, muscle, cerebellum, cerebrum, and spinal cord were immunologically nonreactive. Folate receptor gene expression determined by Northern blot analysis confirmed these observations. We also show that several malignant cell lines express significantly more receptor than normal epithelial cells or fibroblasts. Specifically, malignant cells bound >20 pmol [3H)folate/106 cells, while normal epithelial cells and fibroblasts bound <1 pmol radioligand/106 cells. We also demonstrate that 4 of 6 brain tumors overexpress the folate receptor. These studies reveal the limited normal tissue distribution of the folate receptor, a cell surface protein which may be a useful immunological or Pharmacologieal target for the development of selective cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3396-3401
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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