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P T Khaw, G S Schultz, S L MacKay, N Chegini, D S Rotatori, J L Adams, R W Shimizu; Detection of transforming growth factor-alpha messenger RNA and protein in human corneal epithelial cells.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1992;33(12):3302-3306.
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Human corneal epithelial cells are normally shed from the apical surface and replaced primarily by mitosis of basal cells. Growth factors may regulate this process, but the sources for the growth factors have not been fully established. One potential source for growth factors is tear fluid, and epidermal growth factor (EGF) has been detected in the lacrimal gland and in tears. However, the hydrophilic structure and size of growth factors such as EGF may limit penetration to basal layers of intact epithelium. It is possible that turnover of basal human corneal epithelial cells might be regulated by growth factors acting by an autocrine mechanism. To determine if human corneal epithelial cells synthesize a potential autocrine growth factor, the authors analyzed human corneal epithelial cells for transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-alpha) messenger RNA and protein, a growth factor that is structurally related to EGF and binds to the EGF receptor. Radioimmunoassay of human corneal epithelial cell cultures detected substantial levels of immunoreactive TGF-alpha (3 ng/10(6) cells). Immunohistochemical staining of human corneas also revealed the presence of immunoreactive TGF-alpha in the corneal epithelium. Northern hybridization with a 32P-labeled complementary DNA probe for TGF-alpha generated a single intense band at 4.4 kilobases, indicating the presence of TGF-alpha messenger RNA in cultured human corneal epithelial cells. These results support the hypothesis that normal turnover of corneal epithelium is controlled by the autocrine production of growth factors, such as TGF-alpha. Growth factors present in tears may function primarily as exocrine factors to stimulate healing of epithelial injuries after the epithelial barrier has been damaged.
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