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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2005 Feb;16(2):340-51. Epub 2004 Dec 15.

Connective tissue growth factor CCN2 interacts with and activates the tyrosine kinase receptor TrkA.

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  • 1Renal Section, Division of Medicine, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, Du Cane Road, London, W12 ONN, UK.


Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is implicated as a factor promoting tissue fibrosis in several disorders, including diabetic nephropathy. However, the molecular mechanism(s) by which it functions is not known. CTGF rapidly activates several intracellular signaling molecules in human mesangial cells (HMC), including extracellular signal-related kinase 1/2, Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase, protein kinase B, CaMK II, protein kinase Calpha, and protein kinase Cdelta, suggesting that it functions via a signaling receptor. Treating HMC with CTGF stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of proteins 75 to 80 and 140 to 180 kD within 10 min, and Western blot analysis of anti-phosphotyrosine immunoprecipitates identified the neurotrophin receptor TrkA (molecular weight approximately 140 kD). Cross-linking rCTGF to cell surface proteins with 3,3'-dithiobis(sulfosuccinimidylpropionate) revealed that complexes formed with TrkA and with the general neurotrophin co-receptor p75(NTR). rCTGF stimulated phosphorylation of TrkA (tyr 490, 674/675). K252a, a known selective inhibitor of Trk, blocked this phosphorylation, CTGF-induced activation of signaling proteins, and CTGF-dependent induction of the transcription factor TGF-beta-inducible early gene in HMC. It is concluded that TrkA serves as a tyrosine kinase receptor for CTGF.

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