Transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha) is a 50-amino acid peptide, previously demonstrated only in transformed cell lines and human tumors, which is structurally homologous to epidermal growth factor (EGF). TGF-alpha expression in keratinocytes from normal individuals, patients with psoriasis, and patients with malignant skin diseases was investigated using an mAb raised against synthetic human TGF-alpha. mAb A1.5 reacted with TGF-alpha, but not EGF, in a sensitive ELISA. Keratinocytes in eight nodular basal cell carcinomas, one morpheic basal cell carcinoma, and one squamous cell carcinoma demonstrated intense membranous immunoperoxidase staining with mAb A1.5. Of even greater interest was the observation that the overlying normal epidermis, as well as the epidermis from five normal skin specimens, were stained by the mAb. Keratinocytes in plaques from 18 psoriasis patients were more intensely stained than those from normal skin. Cultured normal keratinocytes demonstrated membranous staining with mAb A1.5. Absorption of mAb A1.5 with synthetic human TGF-alpha completely removed the reactivity of mAb A1.5 with both basal cell tumors and normal epidermis. The demonstration of TGF-alpha in normal keratinocytes suggests that it plays a role in normal keratinocyte growth, wound healing, and in the pathogenesis of acanthosis.

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