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Cell Signal. 2007 Apr;19(4):761-71. Epub 2006 Nov 17.

Combinatorial activation of FAK and AKT by transforming growth factor-beta1 confers an anoikis-resistant phenotype to myofibroblasts.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical Center, 6301 MSRB III, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) is a prototypical tumour-suppressor cytokine with cytostatic and pro-apoptotic effects on most target cells; however, mechanisms of its pro-survival/anti-apoptotic signalling in certain cell types and contexts remain unclear. In human lung fibroblasts, TGF-beta1 is known to induce myofibroblast differentiation in association with the delayed activation of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and protein kinase B (PKB/AKT). Here, we demonstrate that FAK and AKT are independently regulated by early activation of SMAD3 and p38 MAPK, respectively. Pharmacologic or genetic approaches that disrupt SMAD3 signalling block TGF-beta1-induced activation of FAK, but not AKT; in contrast, disruption of early p38 MAPK signalling abrogates AKT activation, but does not alter FAK activation. TGF-beta1 is able to activate AKT in cells expressing mutant FAK or in cells treated with an RGD-containing peptide that interferes with integrin signalling, inhibits FAK activation and induces anoikis (apoptosis induced by loss of adhesion signalling). TGF-beta1 protects myofibroblasts from anoikis, in part, by activation of the PI3K-AKT pathway. Thus, TGF-beta1 co-ordinately and independently activates the FAK and AKT protein kinase pathways to confer an anoikis-resistant phenotype to myofibroblasts. Activation of these pro-survival/anti-anoikis pathways in myofibroblasts likely contributes to essential roles of TGF-beta1 in tissue fibrosis and tumour-promotion.

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