Transforming Growth Factor-β: Master Regulator of the Respiratory System in Health and Disease

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In this article, we review the biology and physiological importance of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) to homeostasis in the respiratory system, its importance to innate and adaptive immune responses in the lung, and its pathophysiological role in various chronic pulmonary diseases including pulmonary arterial hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and pulmonary fibrosis. The TGF-β family is responsible for initiation of the intracellular signaling pathways that direct numerous cellular activities including proliferation, differentiation, extracellular matrix synthesis, and apoptosis. When TGF-β signaling is dysregulated or essential control mechanisms are unbalanced, the consequences of organ and tissue dysfunction can be profound. The complexities and myriad checkpoints built into the TGF-β signaling pathways provide attractive targets for the treatment of these disease states, many of which are currently being investigated. This review focuses on those aspects of TGF-β biology that are most relevant to pulmonary diseases and that hold promise as novel therapeutic targets.

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