Skin fibroblast cultures were established from mouse foetuses at days 14, 15, 16 and 18 of gestation and from newborn mice. Modulations of mitotic and biosynthetic phenotypes of the fibroblasts by transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1) were studied. Treatment of the fibroblasts with TGFβ1 at doses of 1 and 10 ng/ml for 48 h resulted in significant stimulation of cell proliferation in the 15-, 16- and 18-day foetal fibroblasts and a slight stimulation in the 14-day foetal fibroblasts. Treatment with TGFβ1 resulted in stimulation of collagen synthesis approximately 2-fold in the 18-day foetal and newborn fibroblasts, but failed to stimulate it in the 14-, 15- and 16-day foetal fibroblasts. TGFβ1 stimulated glycosaminoglycan (GAG) synthesis throughout all developmental stages approximately 1.8-2.6 fold. Histological study demonstrated that skin wounds made at day 16 of gestation were replaced with normal-appearing dermis, but at day 18 the wounds left dermal fibrosis and lack of hair follicles. These results indicate that the modulations of fibroblast phenotypes (proliferation and syntheses of collagen and GAG) in response to TGFβ1 occur at different stages of gestation. Ontogenic transitions of skin wound healing and collagen synthetic phenotype with TGFβ1 treatment in cultured fibroblasts occurred between days 16 and 18 of gestation, suggesting that the unresponsiveness of collagen synthesis to exogenous TGFβ1 in cell culture may be related to the phenomenon of scarless wounds in the foetus.
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