Background/Aims: Transforming growth factor (TGF) α affects the growth of gastric mucosa. Its overexpression alters the mucosa. The aim of this study was to test the possibility that it regulates differentiation of gland cells. Methods: Transgenic mice that overexpress TGF-α were used to detect its effect on zymogenic (chief) cells in the stomach. To test for a general regulatory role of TGF-α in differentiation of zymogen-producing cells, salivary glands from transgenic mice were studied. Results: In these mice, messenger RNA for pepsinogen C is present in the stomach at normal levels during the neonatal period and then decreases markedly. Zymogenic cells are present in the stomach during the neonatal period but are missing in transgenic adults. The bases of gastric glands, normally rich in zymogenic cells, are occupied by undifferentiated cells and mucous neck cells, the precursors of zymogenic cells. Zymogen granules in submandibular glands of transgenic female mice are reduced in number. Zymogen granule-containing cells in the parotid gland undergo redifferentiation to form tubular complexes, collections of ductularlike structures like those formed in the transgenic pancreas. Conclusions: TGF-α is a major participant in the regulation of terminal differentiation of zymogenic cells in the stomach and salivary glands.
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