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Epidermal Growth Factor in the CNS: A Beguiling Journey from Integrated Cell Biology to Multiple Sclerosis. An Extensive Translational Overview

Giuseppe Scalabrino

Abstract

This article reviews the wealth of papers dealing with the different effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) on oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, neurons, and neural stem cells (NSCs). EGF induces the in vitro and in vivo proliferation of NSCs, their migration, and their differentiation towards the neuroglial cell line. It interacts with extracellular matrix components. NSCs are distributed in different CNS areas, serve as a reservoir of multipotent cells, and may be increased during CNS demyelinating diseases. EGF has pleiotropic differentiative and proliferative effects on the main CNS cell types, particularly oligodendrocytes and their precursors, and astrocytes. EGF mediates the in vivo myelinotrophic effect of cobalamin on the CNS, and modulates the synthesis and levels of CNS normal prions (PrPCs), both of which are indispensable for myelinogenesis and myelin maintenance. EGF levels are significantly lower in the cerebrospinal fluid and spinal cord of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), which probably explains remyelination failure, also because of the EGF marginal role in immunology. When repeatedly administered, EGF protects mouse spinal cord from demyelination in various experimental models of autoimmune encephalomyelitis. It would be worth further investigating the role of EGF in the pathogenesis of MS because of its multifarious effects.

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