Ectodomain Shedding of TGF-beta Receptors: Role in Signaling and Breast Cancer Biology

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Elderbroom, Jennifer Lynn


Blobe, Gerard

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The transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signaling pathway is a critical regulator of multiple biological processes that are involved in cancer progression, such as proliferation, migration, invasion and metastasis. TGF-beta ligands bind to multiple high-affinity receptors (TbetaRI, TbetaRII, TbetaRIII), whose expression on the cell surface, and subsequent ability to transduce signaling, can be modulated by ectodomain shedding.

TbetaRIII, also known as betaglycan, is the most abundantly expressed TGF-beta receptor. TbetaRIII suppresses breast cancer progression through inhibiting migration, invasion, metastasis, and angiogenesis. TbetaRIII binds TGF-beta ligands, with membrane-bound TbetaRIII presenting ligand to enhance TGF-beta signaling. However, TbetaRIII can also undergo ectodomain shedding, releasing soluble TbetaRIII, which binds and sequesters ligand to inhibit downstream signaling. To investigate the relative contributions of soluble and membrane-bound TbetaRIII on TGF-beta signaling and breast cancer biology, here I describe TbetaRIII mutants with impaired (Delta-Shed-TbetaRIII) or enhanced ectodomain shedding (SS-TbetaRIII). Relative to wild-type (WT)-TbetaRIII, Delta-Shed-TbetaRIII increased TGF-beta signaling and blocked TbetaRIII's ability to inhibit breast cancer cell migration and invasion. Conversely, SS-TbetaRIII, which increased soluble TbetaRIII production, decreased TGF-beta signaling and increased TbetaRIII-mediated inhibition of breast cancer cell migration and invasion.

TbetaRI is released from the cell surface by a common sheddase of the A disintegrin and metalloproteinase (ADAM) family, ADAM17. This shedding event results in a downregulation of TGF-beta signaling. Here, I present evidence that a closely related protease, ADAM10, may be a novel sheddase for TbetaRI. A specific ADAM10 inhibitor was able to increase cell surface expression of TbetaRI, and decrease levels of circulating soluble TbetaRI in vivo. Interestingly, inhibition of ADAM10 concurrently increased shedding of TbetaRIII, and was able to alter TGF-beta signaling in a TbetaRIII-dependent manner.

Together, these studies suggest that ectodomain shedding of TGF-beta receptors is an important determinant for regulation of TGF-beta-mediated signaling and biology.





Elderbroom, Jennifer Lynn (2013). Ectodomain Shedding of TGF-beta Receptors: Role in Signaling and Breast Cancer Biology. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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