The activation and proliferation of microglia is characteristic of the early stages of brain pathologies. In this study, we aimed to identify a factor that promotes microglial activation and proliferation and examined the in vitro effects on these processes. We cultured microglial cell lines, EOC 2 and SIM-A9, with various growth factors and evaluated cell proliferation, death, and viability. The results showed that only transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) caused an increase in the in vitro proliferation of both microglial cell lines. It has been reported that colony-stimulating factor 1 promotes the proliferation of microglia, while TGF-β promotes both proliferation and inhibition of cell death of microglia. However, upon comparing the most effective doses of both (assessed from the proliferation assay), we identified no statistically significant difference between the two factors in terms of cell death; thus, both have a proliferative effect on microglial cells. In addition, a TGF-β receptor 1 inhibitor, galunisertib, caused marked inhibition of proliferation in a dose-dependent manner, indicating that inhibition of TGF-β signalling reduces the proliferation of microglia. Therefore, galunisertib may represent a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases via inhibition of nerve injury-induced microglial proliferation, which may result in reduced inflammatory and neuropathic and cancer pain.
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