Neural crest-derived cells populate the thymus, and their coexistence with epithelial cells is required for proper organ development and T cell education function. We show here that epidermal growth factor (EGF), a major epithelial cell growth-enhancing agent, has a morphogenetic action to promote the expression of a neuronal phenotype (e.g., neurofilament expression) in cultured thymic epithelial cells that are characterized by a cytokeratin-positive epithelial cell background. The proliferation of such neurodifferentiated cells is also enhanced by EGF. Furthermore, the growth factor enhances cells that express the genes encoding the preprotachykinin A-generated neuropeptides and bipotential neuropoietic and lymphopoietic cytokines ciliary neurotrophic factor and interleukin-6. These cytokines also enhance the neuronal phenotype of thymic epithelial cells. Therefore, EGF appears to be a composite autocrine/paracrine neuromodulator in thymic stroma. This suggests that EGF may regulate thymus-dependent immune functions by promoting neuronal gene expression in neural crest-derived cells.
Epidermal growth factor promotes a neural phenotype in thymic epithelial cells and enhances neuropoietic cytokine expression.
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I Screpanti, S Scarpa, D Meco, D Bellavia, L Stuppia, L Frati, A Modesti, A Gulino; Epidermal growth factor promotes a neural phenotype in thymic epithelial cells and enhances neuropoietic cytokine expression.. J Cell Biol 1 July 1995; 130 (1): 183–192. doi: https://doi.org/10.1083/jcb.130.1.183
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