The present study investigated the effects of transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta on retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) transformation in a simplified model and also whether or not TGF-beta exhibits similar proliferation effects on transformed RPE cells that it has on primary RPE cells. Furthermore, we examined the cell proliferation effects of RPE-conditioned medium (CM). A vertical wound measuring 2 mm in diameter was made on primary RPE monolayers. The expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin (SMA) by the cells located at the wound edges was observed using a confocal microscope under immunofluorescent staining. Cell proliferation was measured by incorporating 3H-thymidine into DNA. The presence of alpha-SMA was observed in the cells within the wound after treatment with TGF-beta2, while negative expression was observed in control cells. TGF-betas inhibited the proliferation of the primary cultures of RPE cells in a dose-dependent manner, but the spindle-shaped late-passaged RPE cells were not inhibited by these growth factors. The medium conditioned by RPE cells stimulated the proliferation of subconjunctival fibroblasts and inhibited the proliferation of primary RPE cells, in a manner similar to TGF-beta. These findings demonstrate that TGF-beta-stimulated RPE cells may evoke proliferative vitreoretinopathy through mesenchymal transformation and cell proliferation.
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