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Curr Biol. 2003 Feb 18;13(4):297-307.

Sprouty fine-tunes EGF signaling through interlinked positive and negative feedback loops.

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Department of Biological Regulation, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.



Growth factors and their receptor tyrosine kinases play pivotal roles in development, normal physiology, and pathology. Signal transduction is regulated primarily by receptor endocytosis and degradation in lysosomes ("receptor downregulation"). c-Cbl is an adaptor that modulates this process by recruiting binding partners, such as ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes. The role of another group of adaptors, Sprouty proteins, is less understood; although, studies in insects implicated the founder protein in the negative regulation of several receptor tyrosine kinases.


By utilizing transfection of living cells, as well as reconstituted in vitro systems, we identified a dual regulatory mechanism that combines human Sprouty2 and c-Cbl. Upon activation of the receptor for the epidermal growth factor (EGFR), Sprouty2 undergoes phosphorylation at a conserved tyrosine that recruits the Src homology 2 domain of c-Cbl. Subsequently, the flanking RING finger of c-Cbl mediates poly-ubiquitination of Sprouty2, which is followed by proteasomal degradation. Because phosphorylated Sprouty2 sequesters active c-Cbl molecules, it impedes receptor ubiquitination, downregulation, and degradation in lysosomes. This competitive interplay occurs in endosomes, and it regulates the amplitude and longevity of intracellular signals.


Sprouty2 emerges as an inducible antagonist of c-Cbl, and together they set a time window for receptor activation. When incorporated in signaling networks, the coupling of positive (Sprouty) to negative (Cbl) feedback loops can greatly enhance output diversification.

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