beta-Thymosins, small acidic peptides with multiple functions

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2001 Mar;33(3):205-20. doi: 10.1016/s1357-2725(00)00087-x.


The beta-thymosins are a family of highly conserved polar 5 kDa peptides originally thought to be thymic hormones. About 10 years ago, thymosin beta(4) as well as other members of this ubiquitous peptide family were identified as the main intracellular G-actin sequestering peptides, being present in high concentrations in almost every cell. beta-Thymosins bind monomeric actin in a 1:1 complex and act as actin buffers, preventing polymerization into actin filaments but supplying a pool of actin monomers when the cell needs filaments. Changes in the expression of beta-thymosins appear to be related to the differentiation of cells. Increased expression of beta-thymosins or even the synthesis of a beta-thymosin normally not expressed might promote metastasis possibly by increasing mobility of the cells. Thymosin beta(4) is detected outside of cells in blood plasma or in wound fluid. Several biological effects are attributed to thymosin beta(4), oxidized thymosin beta(4), or to the fragment, acSDKP, possibly generated from thymosin beta(4). Among the effects are induction of metallo-proteinases, chemotaxis, angiogenesis and inhibition of inflammation as well as the inhibition of bone marrow stem cell proliferation. However, nothing is known about the molecular mechanisms mediating the effects attributed to extracellular beta-thymosins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / chemistry
  • Actins / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Thymosin / chemistry
  • Thymosin / genetics*
  • Thymosin / metabolism*
  • Wound Healing / physiology


  • Actins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • thymosin beta(4)
  • Thymosin