The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 43: 157 - 165 (1999)

Vol 43, Issue 2

TGFbeta and TGFalpha, antagonistic effect in vitro on extracellular matrix accumulation by chick skin fibroblasts at two distinct embryonic stages

Published: 1 March 1999

P Locci, T Baroni, C Lilli, D Martinese, L Marinucci, S Bellocchio, M Calvitti and E Becchetti

Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale e Scienze Biochimiche, Università di Perugia, Italy.


ECM macromolecules create a specific environment that participates in the control of cell proliferation and differentiation during embryogenesis. Quantitative and qualitative alterations in the ECM may depend on several growth factors that modify cell metabolism. Since transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) and alpha (TGFalpha) are abundantly expressed during embryonic development in organs in which epithelial-mesenchymal interactions occur, the aim of this study was to determine: a) the effect of TGFbeta on the phenotype of 7 and 14 day chick embryo back skin (CEBS) fibroblasts by evaluating the neosynthesis of GAG, collagen and fibronectin; b) whether TGFalpha and TGFbeta production, in particular TGFbeta3 and TGFbeta4, and the number of TGFbeta receptors change during these two stages of embryonic development. The results show that the neosynthesis of ECM macromolecules, tested using radiolabelled precursors, is increased by TGFbeta. The growth factor generally favours cellular accumulation more than secretion. As far as GAG is concerned, TGFbeta has a greater stimulatory effect on sulphated GAG than on HA. Specific bioassay shows that TGFbeta3 and TGFbeta4 activity is higher in 7 day than 14 day CEBS fibroblasts. Moreover, TGFbeta3 and TGFbeta4 mRNA expression is increased in the first stages of development. Instead, the level of TGFalpha increases in successive developmental stages. Since TGFalpha stimulates the synthesis and secretion of HA, and HA binds and inactivates TGFbeta, the greater quantity of HA in 14 day fibroblasts may contribute to reducing the TGFbeta effect. Overall our data suggest that the production of TGFbeta and TGFalpha are age-dependent and that the balance between the two growth factors may be a mechanism for controlling skin differentiation.

Full text in web format is not available for this article. Please download the PDF version.