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J Cell Biol. 1993 Jul;122(1):103-11.

Transforming growth factor-beta 1 induces alpha-smooth muscle actin expression in granulation tissue myofibroblasts and in quiescent and growing cultured fibroblasts.

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University of Geneva, Department of Pathology, Switzerland.


Granulation tissue fibroblasts (myofibroblasts) develop several ultrastructural and biochemical features of smooth muscle (SM) cells, including the presence of microfilament bundles and the expression of alpha-SM actin, the actin isoform typical of vascular SM cells. Myofibroblasts have been proposed to play a role in wound contraction and in retractile phenomena observed during fibrotic diseases. We show here that the subcutaneous administration of transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF beta 1) to rats results in the formation of a granulation tissue in which alpha-SM actin expressing myofibroblasts are particularly abundant. Other cytokines and growth factors, such as platelet-derived growth factor and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, despite their profibrotic activity, do not induce alpha-SM actin in myofibroblasts. In situ hybridization with an alpha-SM actin probe shows a high level of alpha-SM actin mRNA expression in myofibroblasts of TGF beta 1-induced granulation tissue. Moreover, TGF beta 1 induces alpha-SM actin protein and mRNA expression in growing and quiescent cultured fibroblasts and preincubation of culture medium containing whole blood serum with neutralizing antibodies to TGF beta 1 results in a decrease of alpha-SM actin expression by fibroblasts in replicative and non-replicative conditions. These results suggest that TGF beta 1 plays an important role in myofibroblast differentiation during wound healing and fibrocontractive diseases by regulating the expression of alpha-SM actin in these cells.

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