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Oncogene. 2000 Jun 29;19(28):3172-81.

Unique carboxyl-terminal sequences of wild type and alternatively spliced variant forms of transforming growth factor-alpha precursors mediate specific interactions with ErbB4 and ErbB2.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia 29208, USA.


We have previously reported that the human transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-alpha) gene encodes three forms of TGF-alpha precursors, designated wild type (WT), variant I (VaI), and variant II (VaII), derived from alternative splicing. The two carboxyl-terminal valine residues of WT are replaced by 5 (GCRLY) or 4 (ATLG) amino acids in VaI or VaII, respectively. When overexpressed in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, VaI and ValI, but not WT, support autonomous growth. We detected tyrosine phosphorylation of ErbB2 in the absence of serum, in CHO cells expressing WT, VaI, or VaII, but not in mock transfectants. These observations prompted us to investigate possible interactions between the ErbBs and the TGF-alpha precursors in CHO cells. All TGF-alpha precursors were found to co-immunoprecipitate with the ErbBs, but with different specificity. WT co-immunoprecipitated with ErbB4, but not with ErbB1, ErbB2, or ErbB3. VaI and VaII co-immunoprecipitated with ErbB2, but not with ErbB1, ErbB3, or ErbB4. Confocal fluorescent microscopy analysis demonstrated that WT, VaI, and VaII all distribute equally to the cell surface while, as expected, a WT mutant lacking the two C-terminal valine residues does not. Point and deletion mutants involving the unique carboxyl-terminal residues of WT, VaI and VaII, indicated that the interactions between the three TGF-alpha precursors and the ErbBs were mediated by their carboxyl-terminal regions, which constitute distinct protein-binding motifs. A chimera of the intracellular domain of WT TGF-alpha linked to exogenous transmembrane and extracellular domains retained both the cell surface distribution and the specific interaction with ErbB4 of full-length WT, confirming that this interaction is mediated by the C-terminus of the TGF-alpha precursor. While interactions of WT and variant TGF-alpha with the ErbBs all result in ErbB2 activation, they produce different biological consequences, suggesting that the various TGF-alpha precursors differentially modulate ErbB signaling.

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