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Mol Biosyst. 2010 Dec;6(12):2392-402. doi: 10.1039/c0mb00115e. Epub 2010 Oct 4.

Peptide ligands that use a novel binding site to target both TGF-β receptors.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


The transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) signaling pathway plays myriad roles in development and disease. TGF-β isoforms initiate signaling by organizing their cell surface receptors TβRI and TβRII. Exploration and exploitation of the versatility of TGF-β signaling requires an enhanced understanding of structure-function relationships in this pathway. To this end, small molecule, peptide, and antibody effectors that bind key signaling components would serve as valuable probes. We focused on the extracellular domain of TβR1 (TβRI-ED) as a target for effector screening. The observation that TβRI-ED can bind to a TGF-β coreceptor (endoglin) suggests that the TβRI-ED may have multiple interaction sites. Using phage display, we identified two peptides LTGKNFPMFHRN (Pep1) and MHRMPSFLPTTL (Pep2) that bind the TβRI-ED (K(d)≈ 10(-5) M). Although our screen focused on TβRI-ED, the hit peptides interact with the TβRII-ED with similar affinities. The peptide ligands occupy the same binding sites on TβRI and TβRII, as demonstrated by their ability to compete with each other for receptor binding. Moreover, neither interferes with TGF-β binding. These results indicate that both TβRI and TβRII possess hot spots for protein-protein interactions that are distinct from those used by their known ligand TGF-β. To convert these compounds into high affinity probes, we exploited the observation that TβRI and TβRII exist as dimers on the cell surface; therefore, we assembled a multivalent ligand. Specifically, we displayed one of our receptor-binding peptides on a dendrimer scaffold. We anticipate that the potent multivalent ligand that resulted can be used to probe the role of receptor assembly in TGF-β function.

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