Herpesvirus-transformed cell lines were examined for plasminogen activator (PA) activity using a quantitative assay. Previous results of cold fibrin overlay assays indicated that herpesvirus-transformed hamster cell lines produce fibrinolytic activity. Quantification of this activity involved the use of an I-fibrin lysis assay in which medium previously incubated with transformed or normal cells was tested for its ability to lyse I-fibrin polymers. This assay indicated an enhanced production of plasminogen-dependent fibrinolytic activity by transformed hamster cells compared to hamster embryo fibroblasts. The kinetics of secretion failed to reveal a significant difference in plasminogen activator activity in cells transformed by either herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2 (HSV-1 or HSV-2); however, transformed cells exhibited a significant increase in activity over non-transformed cells. Further characterization of PA activity associated with cells transformed by HSV-1 or HSV-2 has revealed that the protease is secreted and can function extracellularly. Extracellular PA activity produced by HSV-transformed cells is detected more efficiently than the cell-associated enzyme. Extracellular PA can be induced in two different species of cells by infection with partially inactivated HSV-2. Lytic infection of human embryo lung cells by HSV-2 strain 333 did not enhance activity, but infection of these cells with virus inactivated by u.v. irradiation resulted in increased PA levels from the cells. Increased enzyme levels were also detected in hamster embryo fibroblasts infected with partially inactivated virus. Further investigation of this enzyme function may determine whether increased levels of protease will indicate oncogenic transformation by herpesviruses.


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