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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Mar 16;96(6):3087-91.

Transforming growth factor beta stimulation of colorectal cancer cell lines: type II receptor bypass and changes in adhesion molecule expression.

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Cancer and Immunogenetics Laboratory, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DS, United Kingdom.


The type II transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta receptor gene (TGFBR2) is often mutated in nucleotide repeat sequences in colorectal cancers that are replication error positive (RER+). These mutations are thought to be selected for escape from growth inhibition by TGF-beta rather than representing bystander events because of an increased mutation rate. We investigated the role of TGFBR2 mutations in 12 colorectal cancer cell lines. Six of these were RER+, and these were shown to have homozygous TGFBR2 mutations. All cell lines then were tested for changes in proliferation in response to TGF-beta stimulation. Despite homozygous mutation of the type II TGF-beta receptor, two RER+ cell lines, Lovo and SW48, showed statistically significant growth inhibition when stimulated by TGF-beta1 in serum-free conditions. This shows that the type II TGF-beta receptor can be bypassed in certain cases to maintain growth inhibition. We next investigated whether there was any alternative mode through which TGFBR2 mutation may give a selective advantage, such as a change in adhesion molecule expression. All cell lines were stimulated with TGF-beta1 and adhesion molecules detected by ELISA. No consistent changes were identified between the RER+ and the RER- cell lines, although changes in E-cadherin, beta-catenin, and gamma-catenin were identified in individual cell lines. We conclude that (i) type II TGF-beta receptor activity can be bypassed and thus TGFBR2 mutations in RER+ cancers may, at least sometimes, be just "bystander" events and (ii) TGF-beta can affect adhesion molecule expression so that TGFBR2 mutation may give rise to a selective advantage through an effect other escape from growth inhibition.

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