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Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-ss) is able to inhibit proliferation of epithelial cells and is involved in the carcinogenesis of human mammary tumours. Three latent transforming growth factor-beta binding proteins (LTBP-1, -3 and -4) are involved in TGF-beta function. The aim of the study was to analyze the expression profiles of TGF-beta 1 and 2 and LTBP-4 in human mammary carcinoma cell lines as well as in human mammary tumours. Expression analysis was performed at the transcription and protein level under in vivo and in vitro conditions. LTBP-4 expression was quantitatively analysed in human carcinomas of the mammary gland and in healthy mammary tissues of the same patients. Downregulation of LTBP-4 in all investigated human mammary tumours compared to normal tissues could be demonstrated. Results also revealed that protein levels of TGF-beta 1 are downregulated and of TGF-beta 2 are upregulated in human mammary carcinoma cell lines compared to primary (normal) human mammary epithelial cells. LTBP-4 reduction in neoplasms leads to a possible decrease of TGF-beta 1 extracellular deposition with reduced TGF-beta 1 bioavailability. TGF-beta 2 was upregulated, which indicates a possible compensatory mechanism. This study demonstrated a possible functional role of LTBP-4 for TGF-beta bioavailability with respect to carcinogenesis of human mammary tumours in vivo and in vitro.