Deficient activity of the guanine nucleotide regulatory protein (G unit), an integral component of the membrane-bound adenylate cyclase complex, has been implicated as the biochemical lesion in many patients with pseudohypoparathyroidism (PHP) type I. In addition to renal resistance to parathyroid hormone in this disorder, there is decreased responsiveness of diverse tissues to hormones that act via 3',5'-cyclic AMP (cAMP). To assess whether a deficiency of G units could account for impaired adenylate cyclase activity, we studied cAMP production in intact cultured fibroblasts and fibroblast plasma membranes from five patients with PHP in response to several activators of adenylate cyclase. The number of G units in PHP fibroblast membranes measured by cholera toxin-dependent [32P]ADP ribosylation of G-unit peptides, as well as the G-unit activity, determined by the ability of detergent extracts to reconstitute adenylate cyclase activity in G-unit-deficient S49 CYC- membranes, were found to be markedly reduced compared with control membranes (43 and 40%, respectively). The activation of fibroblast membrane adenylate cyclase by effectors that act directly through the G-unit (guanosine triphosphate, guanosine 5'-O-[3-thiotriphosphate] [GTP-γ-S], NaF) was significantly greater in control membranes than in membranes from patients with PHP. Moreover, we found that hormone (prostaglandin E1)-stimulated adenylate cyclase activity was also greater in control membranes than in PHP membranes. Neither the apparent affinity of membrane adenylate cyclase for GTP-γ-S (apparent K(m) = 5 x 10-8 M) nor the rate of enzyme activation by GTP-γ-S was significantly different in fibroblast membranes from control subjects and patients with PHP. In contrast to the notable differences in hormone and G-unit-activated adenylate cyclase shown in fibroblast membranes from PHP patients and control subjects, the intrinsic catalytic activity of membranes, as determined by forskolin-stimulated adenylate cyclase, was not significantly different in the two groups. Intact fibroblasts derived from patients with PHP accumulated significantly (P < 0.001) less cAMP (46 ± 21 pmol cAMP/mcg DNA, n = 5) than cells from normal individuals (170 ± 51 pmol cAMP/mcg DNA, n = 11) when stimulated with PGE1. PGE1-stimulated accumulation of cAMP by intact fibroblast monolayers correlated closely with PGE1 plus GTP-activated membrane adenylate cyclase activity in both patients and controls (r = 0.97, P < 0.001). Our data show that, in patients with PHP, (a) fibroblast membranes show a decreased complement of G units, (b) membrane catalytic activity is normal, but adenylate cyclase activity is reduced when stimulated by hormone or by effectors which activate the G-unit, (c) the ability of cells to accumulate cAMP in response to hormone stimulation is reduced, and (d) reduced membrane adenylate cyclase activity correlates well with impaired cellular cAMP synthesis. These results, taken together, indicate that deficiency of G-unit activity can impair synthesis of cAMP by both intact and broken cells, and may explain the resistance of multiple tissues to hormones that act via cAMP observed in PHP.
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