Comparative mitogenic potencies of EGF and TGFα and their dependence on receptor-limitation versus ligand-limitation

Cellular Engineering


Transforming growth factor α (TGFα) has been reported to be a more potent agonist when compared to epidermal growth factor (EGF) in several systems while acting via their common receptor, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). It has been postulated that this increased potency is mediated by the increased recycling of EGFR upon activation by TGFα as against receptor activation by EGF. The authors test this hypothesis by simultaneously measuring mitogenesis and the dynamics of surface receptor number in response to these ligands in NR6 mouse fibroblasts expressing the EGFR. The data demonstrates that increased receptor recycling due to endosomal dissocation of TGFα can indeed realise an increased mitogenic potency relative to EGF under appropriate cellular and experimental conditions (i.e. situations in which the increase in the number of occupied receptors due to receptor sparing by TGFα represents additional mitogenic signalling capacity). However, this difference in receptor trafficking does not uniquely determine the relative potencies of these ligands since TGFα is a less potent mitogen compared to EGF when experimental conditions are dominated by the effects of ligand trafficking on growth factor availability. Thus, the relative potencies of these growth factors are determined in a given context by the relative importance of ligand and receptor trafficking effects which determine the availability of these signalling components. These results are consistent with a suggested model of hormone responsiveness which favours dissociative ligands (such as TGFα) in receptor-limited situations and non-dissociative ligands (such as EGF) in the case of ligand limitation.


Transforming growth factor α Epidermal growth factor Mitogenic potency 


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© IFMBE 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. C. Reddy
    • 1
    • 3
  • A. Wells
    • 2
    • 3
  • D. A. Lauffenburger
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PathologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamUSA
  3. 3.Birmingham Veterans Administration Medical CenterBirminghamUSA
  4. 4.Department of Chemical Engineering and Center for Biomedical Engineering, 56-341Massachussetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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