Thrombocytosis is occasionally seen in patients with carcinomas and has been assumed to be attributable to interleukin-6 or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor produced by carcinoma cells. In this study, we clarified whether thrombopoietin (TPO) is involved in carcinoma-associated thrombocytosis. Expression of TPO mRNA was observed in the majority of 27 carcinoma cell lines as determined by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). There were 6 PCR products differing in size; sequence analysis showed the full-length TPO mRNA (TPO-1), 12- and 116-bp deleted variants (TPO-2 and TPO-3, respectively), and 3 novel isoforms (197- and 128- bp deleted forms and a 60-bp insert form of TPO-3; named TPO-4, TPO-5, and TPO-6, respectively). Of 27 lines, 24 expressed TPO-1 mRNA with various other isoforms. Culture supernatants of COS-1 cells transfected with TPO-5 or TPO-6 cDNA did not promote the proliferation of TPO-responsive cells, whereas Western blot analysis on the cell lysates demonstrated TPO-5 but not TPO-6 protein, suggesting poor extracellular secretion (TPO-5) or poor protein synthesis (TPO-6). TPO protein was detected in 10-fold concentrated culture supernatants of cells of these carcinoma lines, with a median concentration of 0.38 fmol/mL as evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. High blood TPO levels were observed with a median value of 3.46 fmol/mL (range, 0.34 to 8.67 fmol/mL) in patients with advanced carcinomas associated with thrombocytosis. These results indicate that thrombocytosis in patients with carcinomas might be caused, at least in part, by TPO produced by carcinoma cells.
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