TGF-α is synthesized internally as part of a 160 (human) or 159 (rat) amino acid transmembrane precursor. The precursor is composed of an extracellular domain containing a hydrophobic transmembrane domain, 50 amino acids of TGF-α, and a 35-residue-long cytoplasmic domain. In its smallest form, TGF-α has six cysteines linked together via three disulfide bridges. Collectively, all members of the EGF/TGF-α family share this structure. The protein, however, is not directly related to TGF-β.
Limited success has resulted from attempts to synthesize of a reductant molecule to TGF-α that displays a similar biological profile.
Synthesis in the stomach
In the stomach, TGF-α is manufactured within the normal gastric mucosa. TGF-α has been shown to inhibit gastric acid secretion.
TGF-α can be produced in macrophages, brain cells, and keratinocytes. TGF-α induces epithelial development. Considering that TGF-α is a member of the EGF family, the biological actions of TGF-α and EGF are similar. For instance, TGF-α and EGF bind to the same receptor. When TGF-α binds to EGFR it can initiate multiple cell proliferation events. Cell proliferation events that involve TGF-α bound to EGFR include wound healing and embryogenesis. TGF-α is also involved in tumerogenesis and believed to promote angiogenesis.
A 170-kDa glycosylated protein known as the EGF receptor binds to TGF-α allowing the polypeptide to function in various signaling pathways. The EGF receptor is characterized by having an extracellular domain that has numerous amino acid motifs. EGFR is essential for a single transmembrane domain, an intracellular domain (containing tyrosine kinase activity), and ligand recognition. As a membrane anchored-growth factor, TGF-α can be cleaved from an integral membrane glycoprotein via a protease. Soluble forms of TGF-α resulting from the cleavage have the capacity to activate EGFR. EGFR can be activated from a membrane-anchored growth factor as well.
When TGF-α binds to EGFR it dimerizes triggering phosphorylation of a protein-tyrosine kinase. The activity of protein-tyrosine kinase causes an autophosphorylation to occur among several tyrosine residues within EGFR, influencing activation and signaling of other proteins that interact in many signal transduction pathways.
The EGF/TGF-α family has been shown to regulate luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) through a glial-neuronal interactive process. Produced in hypothalamic astrocytes, TGF-α indirectly stimulates LHRH release through various intermediates. As a result, TGF-α is a physiological component essential to the initiation process of female puberty.
TGF-α has also been observed to be highly expressed in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) (5). This finding suggests a role for EGFR signaling in the regulation of CLOCK and circadian rhythms within the SCN. Similar studies have shown that when injected into the third ventricle TGF-α can suppress circadian locomotor behavior along with drinking or eating activities.
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