Phorbol diesters and transferrin modulate lymphoblastoid cell transferrin receptor expression by two different mechanisms

O. Alcantara, J. L. Phillips, D. H. Boldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Expression of transferrin receptors (TfR) by activated lymphocytes is necessary for lymphocyte DNA synthesis and proliferation. Regulation of TfR expression, therefore, is a mechanism by which the lymphocyte's proliferative potential may be directed and controlled. We studied mechanisms by which lymphoblastoid cells modulate TfR expression during treatment with phorbol diesters or iron transferrin (FeTf), agents which cause downregulation of cell surface TfR. Phorbol diester‐induced TfR downregulation occurred rapidly, being detectable at 2 min and reaching maximal decreases of 50% by 15 min. It was inhibited by cold but not by agents that destabilize cytoskeletal elements. Furthermore, this downregulation was reversed rapidly by washing or by treatment with the membrane interactive agent, chlorpromazine. In contrast, FeTf‐induced TfR downregulation occurred slowly. Decreased expression of TfR was detectable only after 15 min and maximal downregulation was achieved after 60 min. Although FeTf‐induced downregulation also was inhibited by cold, it was inhibited in addition by a group of microtubule destabilizing agents (colchicine, vinblastine, podophyllotoxin) or cytochalasin B, a microfilament inhibitor. Furthermore, FeTf‐induced downregulation was not reversed readily by washing or by treatment with chlorpromazine. The inactive colchicine analogues, β‐ and γ‐lumicolchicine, did not inhibit FeTf‐induced TfR downregulation. Similarly, when cells were pretreated with taxol to stabilize microtubules, colchicine no longer inhibited FeTf‐induced downregulation. Therefore, FeTf causes TfR downregulation in lymphoblastoid cells by a cytoskeleton‐dependent mechanism. Phorbol diesters cause TfR downregulation by a cytoskeleton‐independent mechanism. In other experiments, treatment of cells with both a phorbol diester and FeTf, either simultaneously or sequentially, produced additive effects on TfR expression. These data indicate that TfR expression is regulated by two independent mechanisms in lymphoblastoid cells, and they provide the possibility that downregulation of TfR by different mechanisms may result in different effects in these cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-335
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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