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Mol Cell Biol. 1994 Jun;14(6):4280-5.

The transforming growth factor beta type II receptor can replace the activin type II receptor in inducing mesoderm.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California 92037.


The type II receptors for the polypeptide growth factors transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) and activin belong to a new family of predicted serine/threonine protein kinases. In Xenopus embryos, the biological effects of activin and TGF-beta 1 are strikingly different; activin induces a full range of mesodermal cell types in the animal cap assay, while TGF-beta 1 has no effects, presumably because of the lack of functional TGF-beta receptors. In order to assess the biological activities of exogenously added TGF-beta 1, RNA encoding the TGF-beta type II receptor was introduced into Xenopus embryos. In animal caps from these embryos, TGF-beta 1 and activin show similar potencies for induction of mesoderm-specific mRNAs, and both elicit the same types of mesodermal tissues. In addition, the response of animal caps to TGF-beta 1, as well as to activin, is blocked by a dominant inhibitory ras mutant, p21(Asn-17)Ha-ras. These results indicate that the activin and TGF-beta type II receptors can couple to similar signalling pathways and that the biological specificities of these growth factors lie in their different ligand-binding domains and in different competences of the responding cells.

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