TGF-beta1 and radiation fibrosis: a master switch and a specific therapeutic target?

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2000 May 1;47(2):277-90. doi: 10.1016/s0360-3016(00)00435-1.


Radiation fibrosis is a frequent sequel of therapeutic or accidental radiation overexposure in normal human tissues. One of the main fundamental problems yet unsolved in fibrotic tissues is the origin of the chronic activation of myofibroblasts within these tissues. It has been postulated that this chronic activation results from a continuous production of activating factors. In this context, fibrosis could be defined as a wound where continuous signals for tissue repair are emitted. Cytokines and growth factors probably play a central role in this process. Among them, transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) is considered as a master switch for the fibrotic program. This review discusses recent evidence on the critical role played by TGF-beta in the initiation, development, and persistence of radiation fibrosis. It summarizes the results concerning this factor after irradiation of various tissues and cells, with an emphasis on superficial fibrosis, including skin and subcutaneous tissues. Finally, recent data concerning the treatment of established fibrotic disorders of various etiology are presented, as well as the possible mechanisms involved in fibrosis regression, which show that the TGF-beta pathway may constitute a specific target for antifibrotic agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured / radiation effects
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Fibroblasts / radiation effects
  • Fibrosis / drug therapy
  • Fibrosis / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Intestines / radiation effects
  • Lung / radiation effects
  • Mice
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Radiation Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Radiation Injuries / pathology
  • Radiodermatitis / drug therapy
  • Radiodermatitis / etiology
  • Radiodermatitis / pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Swine
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta