Purpose: To determine the involvement of the mitogenic growth factors transforming growth factor alpha (TGF alpha), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and the EGF receptor (EGF-R) in the proliferative response after irradiation of the mouse jejunum.
Methods and materials: C3Hf/Kam mice were whole-body irradiated with 5 and 11 Gy 250 kV X rays. Mice were killed 1-10 days after irradiation, and immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization (ISH), and RNase protection assays were performed.
Results: Damage to the jejunal crypts caused by irradiation resulted in a strong proliferative response 1-5 days after 5 Gy and 3-6 days after 11 Gy. Expression of TGF alpha, EGF, and EGF-R increased at 1-2 days and decreased at 4-8 days after 5- or 11-Gy irradiation. Also, TGF alpha mRNA increased during the early phase of the proliferative response (1-2 days after 5 or 11 Gy) followed by a decrease at 4 days after 5 Gy and 8 days after 11 Gy.
Conclusion: These data indicate that, at the beginning of the proliferative response after irradiation, the transcription of TGF alpha mRNA is increased, and that it is inhibited just before compensatory proliferation decreases. Thus, active regulation of TGF alpha expression takes place at least at the transcriptional level, resulting in upregulation of TGF alpha production and increased TGF alpha levels in the crypts during the proliferative response.