The biological and clinical significance of nicks in human chorionic gonadotropin and its free beta-subunit
Cole, L.A.; Kardana, A.; Ying, F.C.; Birken, S.
Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 64(6): 627-637
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a glycoprotein hormone composed of two dissimilar subunits, alpha and beta. Nicks or missing peptide linkages have been found in the beta 44-52 region of the beta-subunit of hCG, whether from pregnancy or trophoblast disease. This article reviews recent reports about the location of nicks in hCG, their origin and occurrence, their effects on the steroidogenic and receptor-binding activities of hCG, and on the immunological activities of hCG and its free beta-subunit. Taken together, the reports show: (1) nicks occur primarily between beta 47 and beta 48, and to a lesser extent between beta 44 and beta 45; (2) the extent of nicking in hCG samples varies widely, from undetectable to 100 percent of molecules; (3) nicks greatly reduce the steroidogenic activity of hCG in vitro (nicked molecules have less than 20 percent of the activity of the intact hormone); (4) nicks may occur at the trophoblast-myometrial interface or in the circulation by the action of human leucocyte elastase or similar leucocytic protease; (5) hCG testing kits using dimer-specific antibodies may not detect nicked molecules and may give different results from those using other antibodies; (6) hCG international reference preparations and the CR series of hCG standards are variably nicked (10 percent to 20 percent), complicating the problem of discordant hCG results in nick-sensitive assays; (7) results from commonly used immunoassays for measurement of the hCG free beta-subunit vary by as much as tenfold because some of the antibodies employed do not detect nick free beta-subunit.