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Activins as Dual Specificity TGF-? Family Molecules: SMAD-Activation via Activin- and BMP-Type 1 Receptors.
ABSTRACT: 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: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:BMP2 expression is spatiotemporally correlated with embryo implantation and is crucial for endometrial decidualization and fertility in mice. BMP2 has been reported to increase the mesenchymal adhesion molecule N-cadherin and enhance cell invasion in cancer cells; moreover, studies suggest that N-cadherin promotes placental trophoblast invasion. However, whether BMP2 can promote trophoblast cell invasion during placentation remains unknown. The objective of our study was to investigate the effects of BMP2 on human trophoblast cell invasion and the involvement of N-cadherin and SMAD signaling. Primary and immortalized (HTR8/SVneo) cultures of human extravillous trophoblast (EVT) cells were used as study models. Treatment with recombinant human BMP2 increased HTR8/SVneo cell transwell Matrigel invasion as well as N-cadherin mRNA and protein levels, but had no significant effect on cell proliferation. Likewise, BMP2 treatment enhanced primary human EVT cell invasion and N-cadherin production. Basal and BMP2-induced invasion were attenuated by small interfering RNA-mediated downregulation of N-cadherin in both HTR8/SVneo and primary EVT cells. Intriguingly, BMP2 induced the phosphorylation/activation of both canonical SMAD1/5/8 and non-canonical SMAD2/3 signaling in HTR8/SVneo and primary EVT cells. Knockdown of SMAD2/3 or common SMAD4 totally abolished the effects of BMP2 on N-cadherin upregulation in HTR8/SVneo cells. Upregulation of SMAD2/3 phosphorylation and N-cadherin were totally abolished by type I receptor activin receptor-like kinases 2/3 (ALK2/3) inhibitor DMH1; moreover, knockdown of ALK2 or ALK3 inhibited N-cadherin upregulation. Interestingly, activation of SMAD2/3 and upregulation of N-cadherin were partially attenuated by ALK4/5/7 inhibitor SB431542 or knockdown of ALK4, but not ALK5. Our results show that BMP2 promotes trophoblast cell invasion by upregulating N-cadherin via non-canonical ALK2/3/4-SMAD2/3-SMAD4 signaling.
Project description:Activin B is induced in response to inflammation in the liver and enhances hepcidin expression, but the source of activin B and the molecular mechanism underlying hepcidin induction are not clear yet. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation induced inhibin ?B but not inhibin ? or inhibin ?A expression in the liver, implicating activin B induction. Immunoreactive inhibin ?B was detected in endothelial cells and Kupffer cells in LPS-treated liver. Activin B, but not activin A or activin AB, directly increased hepcidin expression. Activin B induced phosphorylation and activation of Smad1/5/8, the BMP-regulated (BR)-Smads. The stimulation of hepcidin transcription by activin B was mediated by ALK2 and ActRIIA, receptors for the TGF-? family. Unexpectedly, activin B-induced hepcidin expression and BR-Smad phosphorylation were resistant to the effects of LDN-193189, an ALK2/3/6 inhibitor. ALK2 and ActRIIA complex formation in response to activin B may prevent the approach of LDN-193189 to ALK2 to inhibit its activity. Activin B also induced phosphorylation of Smad2/3, the TGF-?/activin-regulated (AR)-Smad, and increased expression of connective tissue growth factor, a gene related to liver fibrogenesis, through ALK4 and ActRIIA/B. Activin B-induced activation of the BR-Smad pathway was also detected in non-liver-derived cells. The present study reveals the broad signaling of activin B, which is induced in non-parenchymal cells in response to hepatic inflammation, in hepatocytes.
Project description:Heterotopic ossification (HO) is the aberrant formation of mature, lamellar bone in nonosseous tissue. Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a rare and devastating genetic disorder that causes progressive HO in the ligaments, tendons, and muscles throughout the body. FOP is attributed to an autosomal mutation in activin receptor-like kinase 2 (ALK2), a bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I receptor. Initial studies show that mutant ALK2 drives HO by constitutively activating the BMP signaling pathway. Recently, mutant ALK2 has been shown to transduce Smad1/5 signaling and enhance chondrogenesis, calcification in response to Activin A, which normally signals through Smad2/3 and inhibits BMP signaling pathway. Furthermore, Activin A induces heterotopic bone formation via mutant ALK2, while inhibition of Activin A blocks spontaneous and trauma-induced HO. In this manuscript, we describe the molecular mechanism of the causative gene ALK2 in FOP, mainly focusing on the prominent role of Activin A in HO. It reveals a potential strategy for prevention and treatment of FOP by inhibition of Activin A. Further studies are needed to explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms of Activin A in FOP in more detail.
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.
Project description:Nodal proteins have crucial roles in mesendoderm formation and left-right patterning during vertebrate development. The molecular mechanisms of signal transduction by Nodal and related ligands, however, are not fully understood. In this paper, we present biochemical and functional evidence that the orphan type I serine/threonine kinase receptor ALK7 acts as a receptor for mouse Nodal and Xenopus Nodal-related 1 (Xnr1). Receptor reconstitution experiments indicate that ALK7 collaborates with ActRIIB to confer responsiveness to Xnr1 and Nodal. Both receptors can independently bind Xnr1. In addition, Cripto, an extracellular protein genetically implicated in Nodal signaling, can independently interact with both Xnr1 and ALK7, and its expression greatly enhances the ability of ALK7 and ActRIIB to respond to Nodal ligands. The Activin receptor ALK4 is also able to mediate Nodal signaling but only in the presence of Cripto, with which it can also interact directly. A constitutively activated form of ALK7 mimics the mesendoderm-inducing activity of Xnr1 in Xenopus embryos, whereas a dominant-negative ALK7 specifically blocks the activities of Nodal and Xnr1 but has little effect on other related ligands. In contrast, a dominant-negative ALK4 blocks all mesoderm-inducing ligands tested, including Nodal, Xnr1, Xnr2, Xnr4, and Activin. In agreement with a role in Nodal signaling, ALK7 mRNA is localized to the ectodermal and organizer regions of Xenopus gastrula embryos and is expressed during early stages of mouse embryonic development. Therefore, our results indicate that both ALK4 and ALK7 can mediate signal transduction by Nodal proteins, although ALK7 appears to be a receptor more specifically dedicated to Nodal signaling.
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:Activins transduce the TGF-? pathway through a heteromeric signaling complex consisting of type I and type II receptors, and activins also inhibit bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling mediated by type I receptor ALK2. Recent studies indicated that activin A cross-activates the BMP pathway through ALK2R206H, a mutation associated with Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP). How activin A inhibits ALK2WT-mediated BMP signaling but activates ALK2R206H-mediated BMP signaling is not well understood, and here we offer some insights into its molecular mechanism. We first demonstrated that among four BMP type I receptors, ALK2 is the only subtype able to mediate the activin A-induced BMP signaling upon the dissociation of FKBP12. We further showed that BMP4 does not cross-signal TGF-? pathway upon FKBP12 inhibition. In addition, although the roles of type II receptors in the ligand-independent BMP signaling activated by FOP-associated mutant ALK2 have been reported, their roles in activin A-induced BMP signaling remains unclear. We demonstrated in this study that the known type II BMP receptors contribute to activin A-induced BMP signaling through their kinase activity. Together, the current study provided important mechanistic insights at the molecular level into further understanding physiological and pathophysiological BMP signaling.
Project description:Understanding the control of viral infections is of broad importance. Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection causes decreased expression of the iron hormone hepcidin, which is regulated by hepatic bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)/SMAD signalling. We found that HCV infection and the BMP/SMAD pathway are mutually antagonistic. HCV blunted induction of hepcidin expression by BMP6, probably via tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-mediated downregulation of the BMP co-receptor haemojuvelin. In HCV-infected patients, disruption of the BMP6/hepcidin axis and genetic variation associated with the BMP/SMAD pathway predicted the outcome of infection, suggesting that BMP/SMAD activity influences antiviral immunity. Correspondingly, BMP6 regulated a gene repertoire reminiscent of type I interferon (IFN) signalling, including upregulating interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) and downregulating an inhibitor of IFN signalling, USP18. Moreover, in BMP-stimulated cells, SMAD1 occupied loci across the genome, similar to those bound by IRF1 in IFN-stimulated cells. Functionally, BMP6 enhanced the transcriptional and antiviral response to IFN, but BMP6 and related activin proteins also potently blocked HCV replication independently of IFN. Furthermore, BMP6 and activin A suppressed growth of HBV in cell culture, and activin A inhibited Zika virus replication alone and in combination with IFN. The data establish an unappreciated important role for BMPs and activins in cellular antiviral immunity, which acts independently of, and modulates, IFN.
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.