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J Biol Chem. 2009 Mar 6;284(10):6329-36. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M808426200. Epub 2009 Jan 6.

Growth factors outside of the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) family employ reactive oxygen species/Src family kinases to activate PDGF receptor alpha and thereby promote proliferation and survival of cells.

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  • 1Schepens Eye Research Institute, Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


The vitreous contains a plethora of growth factors that are strongly implicated in the formation of fibroproliferative diseases such as proliferative vitreoretinopathy. Although platelet-derived growth factors (PDGFs) are present in the vitreous, vitreal growth factors outside of the PDGF family activated the PDGF alpha receptor (PDGFRalpha) and promoted disease progression in a rabbit model of proliferative vitreoretinopathy (H. Lei, G. Velez, P. Hovland, T. Hirose, D. Gilbertson, and A. Kazlauskas (2008) submitted for publication.) In this report we investigated the mechanism by which non-PDGFs activated PDGFRalpha. We found that non-PDGFs increased the cellular level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and that this event was necessary and sufficient for phosphorylation of PDGFRalpha. We speculated that the underlying mechanism was ROS-mediated inhibition of phosphotyrosine phosphatases, which antagonize receptor auto-phosphorylation. However, this did not appear to be the case. Non-PDGFs promoted tyrosine phosphorylation of catalytically inactive PDGFRalpha, and thereby indicated that at least one additional tyrosine kinase was involved. Indeed, preventing expression or blocking the kinase activity of Src family kinases suppressed non-PDGF-dependent tyrosine phosphorylation of PDGFRalpha. Thus non-PDGFs increased the level of ROS, which activated Src family kinases and resulted in phosphorylation of PDGFRalpha. Finally, although non-PDGFs induced only modest phosphorylation of PDGFRalpha, proliferation and survival of cells in response to non-PDGFs was significantly enhanced by expression of PDGFRalpha. These studies reveal a novel mechanism for activation of PDGFRalpha that appears capable of enhancing the responsiveness of cells to growth factors outside of the PDGF family.

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