Transforming growth factor-β signaling in epithelial cells

Melanie T. Hartsough, Kathleen M. Mulder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a potent growth suppressor of epithelial cells. Resistance to TGF-β, however, occurs frequently in solid tumors of epithelial origin and contributes to the uncontrolled growth of these tumors. Although mutant receptor proteins contribute to TGF-β insensitivity, deregulation of TGF-β signaling cascades represents an equally important mechanism underlying TGF-β resistance. Identification of abnormal regulation of signaling components in tumor epithelial cells will lead to the development of selective therapeutic approaches to repair the relevant signaling cascade(s) and reverse the growth anomaly. Within the past few years, great strides have been made in defining signaling pathways for TGF-β. For example, our laboratory has demonstrated a direct correlation between TGF-β-mediated growth inhibition of epithelial cells and activation of Ras and three members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) superfamily. The TGF-β signaling events were sustained, dose-dependent, and absent in TGF-β-resistant cells. Further, up-regulation of both p27(Kip1) and p21(Cip1), nuclear events important for the growth inhibitory effect of TGF-β, are completely dependent upon the activation of Ras. However, Ras- independent pathways are also activated simultaneously with the Ras/MAPK pathways to mediate the final TGF-β growth inhibitory outcome. One such pathway includes the SMAD signaling components that control TGF-β-mediated gene transcription, currently under active study by a number of laboratories, including our own. Future efforts in this field will focus on defining the significance of these signaling proteins and pathways in mediating specific TGF-β responses. Moreover, additional novel signaling proteins are sure to be identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-41
Number of pages21
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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