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J Biol Chem. 2011 Jun 3;286(22):19287-96. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.210377. Epub 2011 Apr 6.

Formation of stable homomeric and transient heteromeric bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) receptor complexes regulates Smad protein signaling.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.


The type I and type II bone morphogenetic protein receptors (BMPRI and BMPRII) are present at the plasma membrane as monomers and homomeric and heteromeric complexes, which are modulated by ligand binding. The complexes of their extracellular domains with ligand were shown to form heterotetramers. However, the dynamics of the oligomeric interactions among the full-length receptors in live cell membranes were not explored, and the roles of BMP receptor homodimerization were unknown. Here, we investigated these issues by combining patching/immobilization of an epitope-tagged BMP receptor at the cell surface with measurements of the lateral diffusion of a co-expressed, differently tagged BMP receptor by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP). These studies led to several novel conclusions. (a) All homomeric complexes (without or with BMP-2) were stable on the patch/FRAP time scale (minutes), whereas the heterocomplexes were transient, a difference that may affect signaling. (b) Patch/FRAP between HA- and myc-tagged BMPRII combined with competition by untagged BMPRIb showed that the heterocomplexes form at the expense of homodimers. (c) Stabilization of BMPRII·BMPRIb heterocomplexes (but not homomeric complexes) by IgG binding to same-tag receptors elevated phospho-Smad formation both without and with BMP-2. These findings suggest two mechanisms that may suppress the tendency of preformed BMP receptor hetero-oligomers to signal without ligand: (a) competition between homo- and heterocomplex formation, which reduces the steady-state level of the latter, and (b) the transient nature of the heterocomplexes, which limits the time during which BMPRI can be phosphorylated by BMPRII in the heterocomplex.

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