We report the results of a histochemical study, using polyclonal antipeptide antibodies to the different TGF beta isoforms, which demonstrates that retinoic acid regulates the expression of TGF beta 2 in the vitamin A-deficient rat. Basal expression of TGF beta 2 diminished under conditions of vitamin A deficiency. Treatment with retinoic acid caused a rapid and transient induction of TGF beta 2 and TGF beta 3 in the epidermis, tracheobronchial and alveolar epithelium, and intestinal mucosa. Induction of TGF beta 1 expression was also observed in the epidermis. In contrast to these epithelia, expression of the three TGF beta isoforms increased in vaginal epithelium during vitamin A deficiency, and decreased following systemic administration of retinoic acid. Our results show for the first time the widespread regulation of TGF beta expression by retinoic acid in vivo, and suggest a possible mechanism by which retinoics regulate the functions of both normal and pre-neoplastic epithelia.

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