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Cell Growth Differ. 1994 Apr;5(4):385-94.

Transgenic mice provide genetic evidence that transforming growth factor alpha promotes skin tumorigenesis via H-ras-dependent and H-ras-independent pathways.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which mediates the mitogenic activity of transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha), has been shown to activate Ras in cultured cells through well-defined intermediary proteins. To examine the in vivo relationship between EGFR and Ras, chemical carcinogenesis of TGF-alpha transgenic mouse skin was chosen as an experimental model. Transgenic mice overexpressing TGF-alpha in a wide variety of epithelial tissues by virtue of a metallothionein promoter demonstrate a multitude of premalignant and neoplastic lesions but not spontaneous skin tumors. Transgenic skin was initiated with a single dose of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA), shown previously to induce, in concert with a tumor promoter, murine papillomas that consistently contain specific H-ras mutations. Virtually all DMBA-treated TGF-alpha transgenic mice, but not treated control animals, developed hyperplasias, papillomas, sebaceous adenomas, and more infrequently, sebaceous and squamous cell carcinomas. Therefore, TGF-alpha functions as an autonomous tumor promoter in DMBA-initiated transgenic skin. Skin tumors could be separated into two mutually exclusive genetic classes. In tumors harboring mutant H-ras, TGF-alpha transgene expression was relatively low and essentially unchanged relative to untreated skin; however, only 42% of skin tumors contained mutations in H-ras. Conversely, in most tumors with wild-type H-ras, transgenic TGF-alpha transcripts were enhanced 10- to 20-fold. These results suggest that strong constitutive EGFR stimulation, through TGF-alpha transgene overexpression, can substitute functionally for mutational activation of H-ras in skin tumorigenesis. Moreover, because H-ras mutational activation could not induce skin tumors without TGF-alpha transgene activity, simultaneous stimulation of an EGFR-mediated H-Ras-independent pathway appears to be required for tumor development as well.

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