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J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1999 Sep;29(3):308-13.

Differing patterns of transforming growth factor-beta expression in normal intestinal mucosa and in active celiac disease.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Florence, Italy.



Growth-inhibitory autocrine polypeptides such as transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta may play a role in the control of normal epithelial cell proliferation and differentiation. In addition, TGF-beta has a central role in extracellular matrix homeostasis and regulates the immune response at the local level. In this study immunohistochemistry was used to examine the pattern of TGF-beta protein distribution and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to determine levels of TGF-beta messenger RNA expression in normal intestinal mucosa and in the flat mucosa of children with celiac disease.


Small intestinal biopsies were performed in children with active celiac disease and in histologically normal control subjects. Frozen sections were single stained using an anti-TGF-beta monoclonal antibody and were double stained for TGF-beta and T cell, macrophages, and the activation marker CD25. Total RNA was extracted from frozen specimens and competitive quantitative RT-PCR performed for TGF-beta mRNA using internal synthetic standard RNA.


In normal intestinal mucosa, by immunohistochemistry, TGF-beta expression was most prominent in the villous tip epithelium, whereas in the lamina propria, weak immunoreactivity was present. The celiac mucosa showed weak and patchy epithelial TGF-beta immunoreactivity. In contrast, an intense staining positivity was present in the lamina propria localized mostly in the subepithelial region where T cells, macrophages, and CD25+ cells were detected by double staining. By quantitative RT-PCR, levels of TGF-beta mRNA transcripts appeared to be increased in celiac intestinal mucosa compared with that in control subjects, although the difference did not reach statistical significance.


These observations suggest that TGF-beta expression is associated with differentiated enterocyte function. In celiac disease the lower TGF-beta epithelial cell expression could be a consequence of the preponderance of a less differentiated epithelial cell phenotype also present in the surface epithelium. In contrast, the prominent TGF-beta positivity of the subepithelial lamina propria suggests an association with the local immune and inflammatory response, as well as a potential role of these peptides in mesenchymal-epithelial cell interaction.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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