Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) is a peptide implicated in tissue injury and repair but its role in the premature human lung remains unclear. In the present study, we used a TGF-beta responsive-promoter-luciferase construct in mink lung epithelial cells to quantify levels of biologically active TGF-beta (BA-TGF-beta) in the endotracheal aspirate (ETA) fluid from 16 extremely low birthweight neonates [6 M/10 F, mean GA 26 weeks (range 23-30), mean BW 774 g (range 555-1,075)]. ETA fluid was obtained on day 1 and then every 4 days up to 32 days. BA-TGF-beta levels were low (92 +/- 19 pg/ml) in the first 24 h of life and then increased 5- to 10-fold with peak BA-TGF-beta levels (400 +/- 50 pg/ml) on day 20-25. BA-TGF-beta levels were higher in male than female infants (p = 0.0056). Prenatal steroids decreased significantly the amount of BA-TGF-beta recovered. High initial levels of BA-TGF-beta persisted over time and were predictive of the need for oxygen therapy at home. We conclude that abundant BA- TGF-beta is present in the lungs of preterm infants and speculate that it may be involved in inflammatory and repair processes encountered in acute and chronic lung disease.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel