The involvement of the TGF-β family in cell growth of bone marrow-derived mast cells (BMMC) cultured with medium containing pokeweed mitogen-stimulated spleen cell-conditioned medium (PWM-SCM) was examined. Doubling time of BMMC from Smad3-null mice was longer than that from wild-type (WT) mice, and the differences tended to be larger with time of culture. Consistent with the results, uptake and reduction of [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium, inner salt; MTS] was lower in Smad3-deficient BMMC. Cell cycle analyses revealed no apparent differences between WT BMMC and Smad3-deficient BMMC, suggesting that longer doubling time in Smad3-deficient BMMC resulted from increased cell death. TGF-β and activin A were supplied by PWM-SCM rather than by self-production by BMMC. Blocking the TGF-β pathway by anti-TGF-β neutralizing antibody or an inhibitor for the type I receptors for ligands including TGF-β and activin, SB431542, inhibited MTS uptake and reduction in WT BMMC, whereas anti-activin A antibody and SB431542 tended to inhibit them in Smad3-deficient BMMC. The present results suggest that TGF-β-induced and Smad3-mediated signaling is essential for maximal cell growth in mast cells, and that the activin pathway may be required for it when mast cell context is modulated by Smad3 depletion.
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