Exogenous transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta 1) was shown in earlier studies to reversibly inhibit mouse mammary ductal growth. Using small plastic implants to treat regions of developing mammary glands in situ, we now report that TGF-beta 1 growth inhibition is associated with an ectopic accumulation of type I collagen messenger RNA and protein, as well as the glycosaminoglycan, chondroitin sulfate. Both macromolecules are normal components of the ductal extracellular matrix, which, under the influence of exogenous TGF-beta 1, became unusually concentrated immediately adjacent to the epithelial cells at the tip of the ductal growth points, the end buds. Stimulation of extracellular matrix was confined to aggregations of connective tissue cells around affected end buds and was not present around the TGF-beta 1 implants themselves, indicating that the matrix effect was epithelium dependent. Ectopic matrix synthesis was specific for TGF-beta 1 insofar as it was absent at ducts treated with other growth inhibitors, or at ducts undergoing normal involution in response to endogenous regulatory processes. These findings are consistent with the matrix-stimulating properties of TGF-beta 1 reported for other systems, but differ in their strict dependence upon epithelium. A possible role for endogenous TGF-beta 1 in modulating a mammary epithelium-stroma interaction is suggested.

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