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J Biol Chem. 2005 Dec 2;280(48):40177-86. Epub 2005 Sep 26.

Structural basis for a functional antagonist in the transforming growth factor beta superfamily.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


Within the transforming growth factor beta superfamily, the agonist-antagonist relationship between activin and inhibin is unique and critical to integrated reproductive function. Activin acts in the pituitary to stimulate follicle-stimulating hormone, and is antagonized by endocrine acting, gonadally derived inhibin. We have undertaken a mutational analysis of the activin betaA subunit to determine the precise structural aspects that contribute to inhibin antagonism of activin. By substituting specific amino acid residues in the activin betaA subunit with similarly aligned amino acids from the alpha subunit, we have pinpointed the residues required for activin receptor binding and activity, as well as for inhibin antagonism of activin through its receptors. Additionally, we have identified an activin mutant with a higher affinity for the activin type I receptor that provides structural evidence for the evolution of ligand-receptor interactions within the transforming growth factor beta superfamily.

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