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Prog Neurobiol. 1998 Jan;54(1):71-85.

Transforming growth factor-betas in neurodegenerative disease.

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  • 1Laboratory of Chemoprevention, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892-5055, USA. FLANDERK@DCE41.NCI.NIH.GOV


Transforming growth factors-betas (TGF-betas), a family of multifunctional peptide growth factors, affect cells of the central nervous system (CNS). The three mammalian TGF-beta isoforms, TGF-betas 1, 2 and 3, are expressed in adult human brain. Since neuronal degeneration is a defining feature of CNS degenerative diseases, TGF-beta may be important because it can influence neuronal survival. In vitro TGF-beta promotes survival of rat spinal cord motoneurons and dopaminergic neurons. In addition to direct effects on neuronal survival, TGF-beta treatment of cultured astrocytes induces a reactive phenotype. Thus, TGF-beta may also normalize the extracellular matrix environment in degenerative diseases. The expression of TGF-betas change in response to neuronal injury. TGF-beta 1 expression increases in astrocytes and microglia in animal models of cerebral ischemia, while TGF-beta 2 expression increases in activated astroglial cells in human neurodegenerative diseases. TGF-betas protect neurons from a variety of insults. TGF-beta maintains survival of chick telencephalic neurons made hypoxic by treatment with cyanide and decreases the area of infarction when administered in animal models of cerebral ischemia. In vitro TGF-beta protects neurons from damage induced by treatment with beta-amyloid peptide, FeSO4 (induces production of reactive oxygen species), Ca2+ ionophores, glutamate, glutamate receptor agonists and MPTP (toxic for dopaminergic neurons). TGF-beta maintains mitochondrial potential and Ca2+ homeostasis and inhibits apoptosis in neurons. TGF-beta does not prevent neuronal degeneration in a rat model of Parkinson's disease and has yet to be tested in newly developed transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. TGF-beta is a potent neuroprotective agent which may affect the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases of the CNS.

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