Numerous peptides are known that have specific functions as growth factors in different tissues. These bioactive peptides are characterized by their ability to bind to high-affinity receptors, by their classification into superfamilies that share homology and function and by their synthesis as large precursor molecules that are processed to active forms. In some cases the precursors themselves also have biological activity. Modulation of growth factor activity at the level of the receptor or effector molecules has great therapeutic potential. This article will outline some of the strategies that have successful in deecting and identifying growth factors and demonstrating their biological activity.
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Acknowledgements--The excellent assistance of Dr Jay D. Hunt and Ms Praveena Singh-Kaw in production of figures for this article is gratefully acknowledged. I was supported by an American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Award and grants from the NIH (CA 50694) and Biomeasure, Inc. during the preparation of this article. I also thank Drs Frank Cuttitta, Anthony Treston and Michael J. Birrer of the National Cancer Institute for their contributions to this work.