The effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor alpha (TGF alpha), insulin-like growth factor (IGF) I and II, acidic fibroblast growth factor (FGF), tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha), macrophage inhibitory protein 1 alpha (MIP-1 alpha) (LD78), and TGF beta-1 on cell proliferation in the crypts of the small intestine of mice were investigated. Various doses and dosing regimens were tested. Three in vivo assays were developed, in each case involving detailed cell positional analysis of methyl tritiated thymidine labelling and mitotic activity. These allowed deductions to be made about the regions of the crypt and hence regions of the proliferative hierarchy (stem cells versus dividing transit cells) that are affected by treatment with growth factors. The assays involved: (1) normal untreated mice (an assay most likely to be effective for detecting inhibitors); (2) mice shortly after whole body irradiation when compensatory proliferation has been endogenously triggered (another assay for inhibitory factors, possibly ones associated specifically with the regenerative process); and (3) mice at late times (96 hours) after irradiation in the regression phase after a proliferative overshoot (an assay designed to detect stimulators). Little effect was seen after treatment with acidic FGF, TNF alpha, or MIP-1 alpha but EGF, IGF-I and II, and TGF alpha can all be seen to exert some stimulatory effects on labelling or mitosis. EGF and IGF-I stimulate both unirradiated mice and 96 hour recipients, while TGF alpha had a greater effect on the 96 hour animals. In all cases, multiple doses were used. TGF beta-1 was an effective inhibitor of proliferation in unirradiated and early regenerating (18 hour) animals. EGF was the most effective of the stimulators, raising the levels of proliferation at all positions in the crypt, but particularly in the upper crypt. IGF-I also exerted its effect predominantly in the upper crypt, while TGF alpha raised proliferation at all cell positions. TGF beta-1 tended to have its strongest inhibitory effects in the lower (stem cell) regions of the crypt.
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