Behavior of transforming growth factors in serum-free media: An improved assay for transforming growth factors

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Transforming growth factors (TGFs) are a relatively new category of factors that induce the anchorage-independent growth of non-transformed cells. These factors are usually detected by their ability to induce normal rat kidney (NRK) fibroblasts to grow in soft agar. Until now, this assay has been performed in serum-containing medium (SCM). Unfortunately, the background activity of this assay is variable and dependent on several factors, including passage number of the cells and the serum lot used. Furthermore, the addition of either EGF or TGF-β alone results in the appearance of additional colonies, which decreases the sensitivity of the assay. To circumvent these problems, serum-free media have been developed that support the growth of the NRK cells at low density in both monolayer culture and soft agar. Long-term growth in monolayer cultures occurs in serum-free medium supplemented with laminin, insulin, transferrin, epidermal growth factor (EGF), fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). Growth in soft agar occurs when TGFs are added to a serum-free medium, AIG medium, that contains insulin, transferrin, FGF and HDL. In contrast to the background activity observed when the assay is performed in SCM, no colonies form in the AIG medium unless TGFs are added and few, if any, colonies form if EGF or TGF-β are added alone. Thus, the AIG medium provides an improved assay for TGFs. In addition, the AIG medium should prove useful for examining other factors, including serum factors, for TGF activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-822
Number of pages8
JournalIn Vitro: Journal of the Tissue Culture Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1984


  • epidermal growth factor
  • serum-free media
  • transforming growth factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Plant Science


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