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FASEB J. 1997 Oct;11(12):991-1002.

Latent transforming growth factor beta1 activation in situ: quantitative and functional evidence after low-dose gamma-irradiation.

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  • 1Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins 80523, USA.


The biological activity of transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta) is controlled by its secretion as a latent complex in which it is noncovalently associated with latency-associated peptide (LAP). Activation is the extracellular process in which TGF-beta is released from LAP, and is considered to be a primary regulatory control. We recently reported rapid and persistent changes in TGF-beta immunoreactivity in conjunction with extracellular matrix remodeling in gamma-irradiated mouse mammary gland. Our hypothesis is that these specific changes in immunoreactivity are indicative of latent TGF-beta activation. In the present study, we determined the radiation dose response and tested whether a functional relationship exists between radiation-induced TGF-beta and collagen type III remodeling. After radiation exposures as low as 0.1 Gy, we detected increased TGF-beta immunoreactivity in the mammary epithelium concomitant with decreased LAP immunostaining, which are events consistent with activation. Quantitative image analysis demonstrated a significant (P=0.0005) response at 0.1 Gy without an apparent threshold and a linear dose response to 5 Gy. However, in the adipose stroma, loss of LAP demonstrated a qualitative threshold at 0.5 Gy. Loss of LAP paralleled induction of collagen III immunoreactivity in this tissue compartment. We tested whether TGF-beta mediates collagen III expression by treating animals with TGF-beta panspecific monoclonal antibody, 1D11.16, administered i.p. shortly before irradiation. Radiation-induced collagen III staining in the adipose stroma was blocked in an antibody dose-dependent manner, which persisted through 7 days postirradiation. RNase protection assay revealed that radiation-induced elevation of total gland collagen III mRNA was also blocked by neutralizing antibody treatment. These data provide functional confirmation of the hypothesis that radiation exposure leads to latent TGF-beta activation, support our interpretation of the reciprocal shift in immunoreactivity as evidence of activation, and implicate TGF-beta as a mediator of tissue response to ionizing radiation. The sensitivity of activation to low radiation doses points to a potential role for TGF-beta in orchestrating tissue response to oxidative stress. As such, radiation may be useful as a probe to delineate the consequences of latent TGF-beta activation in situ.

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