Transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1) is a secreted polypeptide that is thought to play a major role in the regulation of folliculogenesis and differentiation of thyroid cells. On porcine thyroid follicular cells cultured on plastic substratum, TGF-beta1, in a concentration-dependent way, promoted the disruption of follicles, cell spreading, migration and confluency by a mechanism that did not involve cell proliferation. TGF-beta1 strongly activated the production of thrombospondin-1 and (alpha)vbeta3 integrin in a concentration-dependent manner whereas the expression of thyroglobulin was unaffected. Anisomycin, an inhibitor of protein synthesis, inhibited the effect of TGF-beta1 on cell organization. Thrombospondin-1 reproduced the effect of TGF-beta1. In the presence of thrombospondin-1 cells did not organize in follicle-like structures but, in contrast, spreaded and reached confluency independently of cell proliferation. This effect is suppressed by an RGD-containing peptide. The adhesive properties of thrombospondin-1 for thyroid cells were shown to be mediated by both the amino-terminal heparin-binding domain and the RGD domain of thrombospondin-1. Adhesion was shown to involve (alpha)vbeta3 integrin. The results show that TGF-beta1 exerted an influence upon function and behaviour of follicle cells partly mediated by the synthesis of thrombospondin-1 and of its receptor (alpha)vbeta3 integrin.

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