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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Mar 1989; 86(5): 1558–1562.
PMCID: PMC286737

Transforming growth factor alpha may be a physiological regulator of liver regeneration by means of an autocrine mechanism.


We investigated whether transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha) is involved in hepatocyte growth responses both in vivo and in culture. During liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy in rats, TGF-alpha mRNA increased; it reached a maximum (approximately 9-fold higher than normal) at the peak of DNA synthesis. The message and the peptide were localized in hepatocytes and found in higher amounts in hepatocytes obtained from regenerating liver. TGF-alpha caused a 13-fold elevation of DNA synthesis in hepatocytes in primary culture and was slightly more effective than epidermal growth factor. TGF-beta blocked TGF-alpha stimulation when added either simultaneously with TGF-alpha or a day later. TGF-alpha message increased in hepatocytes stimulated to undergo DNA synthesis by TGF-alpha or epidermal growth factor, and the peptide was detected in the culture medium by RIA. In the regenerating liver, the increase in TGF-alpha mRNA during the first day after partial hepatectomy coincided with an increase in epidermal growth factor/TGF-alpha receptor mRNA and a decrease (already reported) in the number of these receptors. We conclude that TGF-alpha may function as a physiological inducer of hepatocyte DNA synthesis during liver regeneration by means of an autocrine mechanism and that its stimulatory effects in this growth process are balanced by the inhibitory action of TGF-beta 1.

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