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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2001 Jun;107(7):1787-94; discussion 1795-6.

Ontogeny of expression of transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1), TGF-beta 3, and TGF-beta receptors I and II in fetal rat fibroblasts and skin.

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Department of Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Fetal cutaneous wounds that occur in early gestation heal without scar formation. Although much work has been done to characterize the role of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) isoforms in the adult wound repair process, their function in fetal scarless wound repair is not well understood. The authors hypothesized that the pattern of expression for TGF-beta isoforms and their receptors may influence the phenotypic transition from scarless to scar-forming repair observed during fetal gestation. Using time-dated fetal Sprague-Dawley rat fibroblasts and unwounded skin at gestational ages 14, 16, 18, and 21 days postcoitum of the scarless (< or =16 days) and scar-forming (>16 days) periods of gestation (term = 21.5 days), the authors analyzed the endogenous messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of TGF-beta 1 and TGF-beta 3 and their signaling receptors TGF-beta-RI and TGF-beta-RII. Northern blot analyses in both fibroblasts and unwounded skin revealed that levels of TGF-beta 1 were not differentially expressed, whereas more TGF-beta 3 mRNA transcript was found in early than in late gestation. Fibroblast expression of TGF-beta-RI showed no substantial differences, whereas expression of TGF-beta-RII increased during gestation. In contrast, expression of both TGF-beta-RI and TGF-beta-RII in unwounded skin showed decreasing levels as a function of gestational age. The differential levels of TGF-beta 1 and TGF-beta 3 suggest that the ratio of these cytokines may provide a predominantly antiscarring or profibrotic signal upon wounding during the scar-free or scar-forming periods of gestation, respectively. Furthermore, lower amounts of the ligand-binding TGF-beta-RII seen in early gestation fibroblasts suggest a decreased ability to perceive ligand during the period of scarless repair.

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