Inhibition of Activin Signaling Slows Progression of Polycystic Kidney Disease.
ABSTRACT: Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), characterized by the formation of numerous kidney cysts, is caused by PKD1 or PKD2 mutations and affects 0.1% of the population. Although recent clinical studies indicate that reduction of cAMP levels slows progression of PKD, this finding has not led to an established safe and effective therapy for patients, indicating the need to find new therapeutic targets. The role of TGF-β in PKD is not clearly understood, but nuclear accumulation of phosphorylated SMAD2/3 in cyst-lining cells suggests the involvement of TGF-β signaling in this disease. In this study, we ablated the TGF-β type 1 receptor (also termed activin receptor-like kinase 5) in renal epithelial cells of PKD mice, which had little to no effect on the expression of SMAD2/3 target genes or the progression of PKD. Therefore, we investigated whether alternative TGF-β superfamily ligands account for SMAD2/3 activation in cystic epithelial cells. Activins are members of the TGF-β superfamily and drive SMAD2/3 phosphorylation via activin receptors, but activins have not been studied in the context of PKD. Mice with PKD had increased expression of activin ligands, even at early stages of disease. In addition, treatment with a soluble activin receptor IIB fusion (sActRIIB-Fc) protein, which acts as a soluble trap to sequester activin ligands, effectively inhibited cyst formation in three distinct mouse models of PKD. These data point to activin signaling as a key pathway in PKD and a promising target for therapy.
Project description:Activins belong to the transforming growth factor (TGF)-? family of multifunctional cytokines and signal via the activin receptors ALK4 or ALK7 to activate the SMAD2/3 pathway. In some cases, activins also signal via the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) receptor ALK2, causing activation of the SMAD1/5/8 pathway. In this study, we aimed to dissect how activin A and activin B homodimers, and activin AB and AC heterodimers activate the two main SMAD branches. We compared the activin-induced signaling dynamics of ALK4/7-SMAD2/3 and ALK2-SMAD1/5 in a multiple myeloma cell line. Signaling via the ALK2-SMAD1/5 pathway exhibited greater differences between ligands than signaling via ALK4/ALK7-SMAD2/3. Interestingly, activin B and activin AB very potently activated SMAD1/5, resembling the activation commonly seen with BMPs. As SMAD1/5 was also activated by activins in other cell types, we propose that dual specificity is a general mechanism for activin ligands. In addition, we found that the antagonist follistatin inhibited signaling by all the tested activins, whereas the antagonist cerberus specifically inhibited activin B. Taken together, we propose that activins may be considered dual specificity TGF-? family members, critically affecting how activins may be considered and targeted clinically.
Project description:After the initial discovery of activins as important regulators of reproduction, novel and diverse roles have been unraveled for them. Activins are expressed in various tissues and have a broad range of activities including the regulation of gonadal function, hormonal homeostasis, growth and differentiation of musculoskeletal tissues, regulation of growth and metastasis of cancer cells, proliferation and differentiation of embryonic stem cells, and even higher brain functions. Activins signal through a combination of type I and II transmembrane serine/threonine kinase receptors. Activin receptors are shared by multiple transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) ligands such as myostatin, growth and differentiation factor-11 and nodal. Thus, although the activity of each ligand is distinct, they are also redundant, both physiologically and pathologically in vivo. Activin receptors activated by ligands phosphorylate the receptor-regulated Smads for TGF-beta, Smad2 and 3. The Smad proteins then undergo multimerization with the co-mediator Smad4, and translocate into the nucleus to regulate the transcription of target genes in cooperation with nuclear cofactors. Signaling through receptors and Smads is controlled by multiple mechanisms including phosphorylation and other posttranslational modifications such as sumoylation, which affect potein localization, stability and transcriptional activity. Non-Smad signaling also plays an important role in activin signaling. Extracellularly, follistatin and related proteins bind to activins and related TGF-beta ligands, and control the signaling and availability of ligands.The functions of activins through activin receptors are pleiotrophic, cell type-specific and contextual, and they are involved in the etiology and pathogenesis of a variety of diseases. Accordingly, activin signaling may be a target for therapeutic interventions. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on activin signaling and discuss the potential roles of this pathway as a molecular target of therapy for metabolic diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, cancers and neural damages.
Project description:The TGF-beta superfamily of ligands and receptors stimulate cellular events in diverse processes ranging from cell fate specification in development to immune suppression. Activins define a major subgroup of TGF-beta ligands that regulate cellular differentiation, proliferation, activation and apoptosis. Activins signal through complexes formed with type I and type II serine/threonine kinase receptors. We have solved the crystal structure of activin A bound to the extracellular domain of a type II receptor, ActRIIB, revealing the details of this interaction. ActRIIB binds to the outer edges of the activin finger regions, with the two receptors juxtaposed in close proximity, in a mode that differs from TGF-beta3 binding to type II receptors. The dimeric activin A structure differs from other known TGF-beta ligand structures, adopting a compact folded-back conformation. The crystal structure of the complex is consistent with recruitment of two type I receptors into a close packed arrangement at the cell surface and suggests that diversity in the conformational arrangements of TGF-beta ligand dimers could influence cellular signaling processes.
Project description:Of all ligands of the transforming growth factor beta superfamily, inhibins and activins are a physiologically relevant pair that are functional antagonists of each other. Activin stimulates whereas inhibin blocks follicle-stimulating hormone biosynthesis and secretion from pituitary gonadotrope cells, and together, inhibin and activin control the pituitary gonadal axis essential for normal reproductive function. Sharing a similar beta-subunit, the secretion of inhibin heterodimers (alpha/beta) or activin homodimers (beta/beta) as mature bioactive ligands depends, in part, on the proteolytic processing of precursor proteins. A short loop regulatory pathway controlling precursor processing and dimer secretion was discovered. Activin stimulates endogenous inhibin alpha- and betaB-subunit mRNA, protein, and proteolytic processing. Simultaneously, activin stimulated the proconvertase furin through a Smad2/3-dependent process. The data provide a mechanism where the regulation of furin and inhibin subunits cooperates in an important positive short feedback loop. This regulatory loop augments the secretion of bioactive mature activin B, as well as inhibin B dimers, necessary for local follicle-stimulating hormone beta regulation.
Project description:Transforming Growth Factor--beta (TGF?) superfamily ligands, including Activins, Growth and Differentiation Factors (GDFs), and Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs), are excellent targets for protein-based therapeutics because of their pervasiveness in numerous developmental and cellular processes. We developed a strategy termed RASCH (Random Assembly of Segmental Chimera and Heteromer), to engineer chemically-refoldable TGF? superfamily ligands with unique signaling properties. One of these engineered ligands, AB208, created from Activin-?A and BMP-2 sequences, exhibits the refolding characteristics of BMP-2 while possessing Activin-like signaling attributes. Further, we find several additional ligands, AB204, AB211, and AB215, which initiate the intracellular Smad1-mediated signaling pathways more strongly than BMP-2 but show no sensitivity to the natural BMP antagonist Noggin unlike natural BMP-2. In another design, incorporation of a short N-terminal segment from BMP-2 was sufficient to enable chemical refolding of BMP-9, without which was never produced nor refolded. Our studies show that the RASCH strategy enables us to expand the functional repertoire of TGF? superfamily ligands through development of novel chimeric TGF? ligands with diverse biological and clinical values.
Project description:Activins are members of the TGF-β family of ligands that have multiple biological functions in embryonic stem cells as well as in differentiated tissue. Serum levels of activin A were found to be elevated in pathological conditions such as cachexia, osteoporosis and cancer. Signaling by activin A through canonical ALK4-ACVR2 receptor complexes activates the transcription factors SMAD2 and SMAD3. Activin A has a strong affinity to type 2 receptors, a feature that they share with some of the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). Activin A is also elevated in myeloma patients with advanced disease and is involved in myeloma bone disease.In this study we investigated effects of activin A binding to receptors that are shared with BMPs using myeloma cell lines with well-characterized BMP-receptor expression and responses. Activin A antagonized BMP-6 and BMP-9, but not BMP-2 and BMP-4. Activin A was able to counteract BMPs that signal through the type 2 receptors ACVR2A and ACVR2B in combination with ALK2, but not BMPs that signal through BMPR2 in combination with ALK3 and ALK6.We propose that one important way that activin A regulates cell behavior is by antagonizing BMP-ACVR2A/ACVR2B/ALK2 signaling.
Project description:Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) contributes to normal tissue patterning and carcinoma invasiveness. We show that transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta/activin members, but not bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) members, can induce EMT in normal human and mouse epithelial cells. EMT correlates with the ability of these ligands to induce growth arrest. Ectopic expression of all type I receptors of the TGF-beta superfamily establishes that TGF-beta but not BMP pathways can elicit EMT. Ectopic Smad2 or Smad3 together with Smad4 enhanced, whereas dominant-negative forms of Smad2, Smad3, or Smad4, and wild-type inhibitory Smad7, blocked TGF-beta-induced EMT. Transcriptomic analysis of EMT kinetics identified novel TGF-beta target genes with ligand-specific responses. Using a TGF-beta type I receptor that cannot activate Smads nor induce EMT, we found that Smad signaling is critical for regulation of all tested gene targets during EMT. One such gene, Id2, whose expression is repressed by TGF-beta1 but induced by BMP-7 is critical for regulation of at least one important myoepithelial marker, alpha-smooth muscle actin, during EMT. Thus, based on ligand-specific responsiveness and evolutionary conservation of the gene expression patterns, we begin deciphering a genetic network downstream of TGF-beta and predict functional links to the control of cell proliferation and EMT.
Project description:Elevated ALK4/5 ligands including TGF-? and activins have been linked to cardiovascular remodeling and heart failure. Doxorubicin (Dox) is commonly used as a model of cardiomyopathy, a condition that often precedes cardiovascular remodeling and heart failure. In 7-8-week-old C57Bl/6 male mice treated with Dox we found decreased capillary density, increased levels of ALK4/5 ligand and Smad2/3 transcripts, and increased expression of Smad2/3 transcriptional targets. Human cardiac microvascular endothelial cells (HCMVEC) treated with Dox also showed increased levels of ALK4/5 ligands, Smad2/3 transcriptional targets, a decrease in proliferation and suppression of vascular network formation in a HCMVEC and human cardiac fibroblasts co-culture assay. Our hypothesis is that the deleterious effects of Dox on endothelial cells are mediated in part by the activation of the TGF-? pathway. We used the inhibitor of ALK4/5 kinases SB431542 (SB) in concert with Dox to ascertain the role of TGF-? pathway activation in doxorubicin induced endothelial cell defects. SB prevented the suppression of HCMVEC proliferation in the presence of TGF-?2 and activin A, and alleviated the inhibition of HCMVEC proliferation by Dox. SB also prevented the suppression of vascular network formation in co-cultures of HCMVEC and human cardiac fibroblasts treated with Dox. Our results show that the inhibition of the TGF-? pathway alleviates the detrimental effects of Dox on endothelial cells in vitro.
Project description:Previous studies have shown that peripheral blood monocytes can be converted in vitro to a stem cell-like cell termed PCMO as evidenced by the re-expression of pluripotency-associated genes, transient proliferation, and the ability to adopt the phenotype of hepatocytes and insulin-producing cells upon tissue-specific differentiation. However, the regulatory interactions between cultured cells governing pluripotency and mitotic activity have remained elusive. Here we asked whether activin(s) and TGF-?(s), are involved in PCMO generation. De novo proliferation of PCMO was higher under adherent vs. suspended culture conditions as revealed by the appearance of a subset of Ki67-positive monocytes and correlated with down-regulation of p21WAF1 beyond day 2 of culture. Realtime-PCR analysis showed that PCMO express ActRIIA, ALK4, T?RII, ALK5 as well as TGF-?1 and the ?A subunit of activin. Interestingly, expression of ActRIIA and ALK4, and activin A levels in the culture supernatants increased until day 4 of culture, while levels of total and active TGF-?1 strongly declined. PCMO responded to both growth factors in an autocrine fashion with intracellular signaling as evidenced by a rise in the levels of phospho-Smad2 and a drop in those of phospho-Smad3. Stimulation of PCMO with recombinant activins (A, B, AB) and TGF-?1 induced phosphorylation of Smad2 but not Smad3. Inhibition of autocrine activin signaling by either SB431542 or follistatin reduced both Smad2 activation and Oct4A/Nanog upregulation. Inhibition of autocrine TGF-? signaling by either SB431542 or anti-TGF-? antibody reduced Smad3 activation and strongly increased the number of Ki67-positive cells. Furthermore, anti-TGF-? antibody moderately enhanced Oct4A/Nanog expression. Our data show that during PCMO generation pluripotency marker expression is controlled positively by activin/Smad2 and negatively by TGF-?/Smad3 signaling, while relief from growth inhibition is primarily the result of reduced TGF-?/Smad3, and to a lesser extent, activin/Smad2 signaling.
Project description:All major cell types in pancreatic islets express the transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta superfamily receptor ALK7, but the physiological function of this receptor has been unknown. Mutant mice lacking ALK7 showed normal pancreas organogenesis but developed an age-dependent syndrome involving progressive hyperinsulinemia, reduced insulin sensitivity, liver steatosis, impaired glucose tolerance, and islet enlargement. Hyperinsulinemia preceded the development of any other defect, indicating that this may be one primary consequence of the lack of ALK7. In agreement with this, mutant islets showed enhanced insulin secretion under sustained glucose stimulation, indicating that ALK7 negatively regulates glucose-stimulated insulin release in beta-cells. Glucose increased expression of ALK7 and its ligand activin B in islets, but decreased that of activin A, which does not signal through ALK7. The two activins had opposite effects on Ca(2+) signaling in islet cells, with activin A increasing, but activin B decreasing, glucose-stimulated Ca(2+) influx. On its own, activin B had no effect on WT cells, but stimulated Ca(2+) influx in cells lacking ALK7. In accordance with this, mutant mice lacking activin B showed hyperinsulinemia comparable with that of Alk7(-/-) mice, but double mutants showed no additive effects, suggesting that ALK7 and activin B function in a common pathway to regulate insulin secretion. These findings uncover an unexpected antagonism between activins A and B in the control of Ca(2+) signaling in beta-cells. We propose that ALK7 plays an important role in regulating the functional plasticity of pancreatic islets, negatively affecting beta-cell function by mediating the effects of activin B on Ca(2+) signaling.