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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jun 8;287(24):20636-51. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.314997. Epub 2012 Mar 26.

Engulfment protein GULP is regulator of transforming growth factor-β response in ovarian cells.

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Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1A1, Canada.


Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) is a key regulatory molecule with pleiotropic effects on cell growth, migration, and invasion. As a result, impairment of proper TGF-β signaling is central to tumorigenesis and metastasis. The TGF-β receptor V (TGFBRV or LRP1) has been shown to be responsible for TGF-β-mediated cell growth inhibition in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. The LRP1 adapter protein GULP mediates internalization of the various LRP1-specific ligands, and we hypothesize that GULP acts as a novel regulator of TGF-β signaling in ovarian cells. CHO cells that overexpress exogenous GULP (FL) demonstrate enhancement in growth inhibition, migration, and invasion from TGF-β treatment, whereas cells that lack GULP (AS) show impairment of growth inhibition and decreased migration and invasion. The enhanced TGF-β response in FL cells was confirmed by a prolonged TGF-β-induced SMAD3 phosphorylation, whereas a shortening of the phosphorylation event is observed in AS cells. Mechanistically, the presence of GULP retains the TGF-β in a signaling-competent early endosome for enhanced signaling. To address this mechanism in a physiological setting, TGF-β insensitive ovarian adenocarcinoma cells (HEY) have a very low GULP expression level, similar to the observation made in a wide selection of human ovarian adenocarcinomas. Transfection of GULP into the HEY cells restored the TGF-β responsiveness, as measured by SMAD3 phosphorylation and impairment of cell growth. Because GULP expression positively regulates TGF-β signaling leading to growth inhibition, this may represent an attractive target to achieve TGF-β responsiveness in ovarian cells.

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