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Chem Biol. 1998 Jul;5(7):385-95.

TGF-beta-signaling with small molecule FKBP12 antagonists that bind myristoylated FKBP12-TGF-beta type I receptor fusion proteins.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Harvard University 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138, USA.



Growth arrest in many cell types is triggered by transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), which signals through two TGF-beta receptors (type I, TGF-beta RI, and type II, TGF-beta). In the signaling pathway, TGF-beta binds to the extracellular domain of TGF-betaRII, which can then transphosphorylate TGF-betaRI in its glycine/serine (GS)-rich box. Activated TGF-betaRI phosphorylates two downstream effectors, Smad2 and Smad3, leading to their translocation into the nucleus. Cell growth is arrested and plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1) is upregulated. We investigated the role of the immunophilin FKBP12, which can bind to the GS box of TGF-betaRI, in TGF-beta signaling.


Overexpression of myristoylated TGF-betaRI and TGF-betaRII cytoplasmic tails caused constitutive nuclear translocation of a green-fluorescent-protein-Smad2 construct in COS-1 cells, and constitutive activation of a PAI-1 reporter plasmid in mink lung cells. Fusing FKBP12 to TGF-betaRI resulted in repression of autosignaling that could be alleviated by FK506M or rapamycin (two small molecules that can bind to FKBP12). Mutation of the FKBP12-binding site in the FKBP1-TGF-betaRI fusion protein restored constitutive signaling. An acidic mutation in the FKBP12-TGF-betaRI protein allowed FKBP12 antagonists to activate signaling in the absence of TGF-betaRII. Further mutations in the TGF-betaRI FKBP12-binding site resulted in TGF-beta signaling that was independent of both TGF-betaRII and FKBP12 antagonists.


Fusing FKBP12 to TGF-betaRI results in a novel receptor that is activated by small molecule FKBP12 antagonists. These results suggest that FKBP12 binding to TGF-betaRI is inhibitory and that FKBP12 plays a role in inhibiting TGF-beta superfamily signals.

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