Background: Transforming Growth Factor-beta (TGF-beta) regulates key biological processes during development and in adult tissues and has been implicated in many diseases. To study the biological functions of TGF-beta, sensitive, specific, and convenient bioassays are necessary. Here we describe a new cell-based bioassay that fulfills these requirements.
Results: Embryonic fibroblasts from Tgfb1-/- mice were stably transfected with a reporter plasmid consisting of TGF-beta responsive Smad-binding elements coupled to a secreted alkaline phosphatase reporter gene (SBE-SEAP). Clone MFB-F11 showed more than 1000-fold induction after stimulation with 1 ng/ml TGF-beta1, and detected as little as 1 pg/ml TGF-beta1. MFB-F11 cells were highly induced by TGF-beta1, TGF-beta2 and TGF-beta3, but did not show induction with related family members activin, nodal, BMP-2 and BMP-6 or with trophic factors bFGF and BDNF. MFB-F11 cells can detect and quantify TGF-beta in biological samples without prior enrichment of TGF-betas, and can detect biologically activated TGF-beta in a cell co-culture system.
Conclusion: MFB-F11 cells can be used to rapidly and specifically measure TGF-beta with high sensitivity.