Ternary complex of transforming growth factor-β1 reveals isoform-specific ligand recognition and receptor recruitment in the superfamily

Sergei Radaev, Zhongcheng Zou, Tao Huang, Eileen M. Lafer, Andrew P Hinck, Peter D. Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, -β2, and -β3 are 25-kDa homodimeric polypeptides that play crucial nonoverlapping roles in embryogenesis, tissue development, carcino-genesis, and immune regulation. Here we report the 3.0-Å resolution crystal structure of the ternary complex between human TGF-β1 and the extracellular domains of its type I and type II receptors, TβRI and TβRII. The TGF-β1 ternary complex structure is similar to previously reported TGF-β3 complex except with a 10° rotation in TβRI docking orientation. Quantitative binding studies showed distinct kinetics between the receptors and the isoforms of TGF-β. TβRI showed significant binding to TGF-β2 and TGF-β3 but not TGF-β1, and the binding to all three isoforms of TGF-β was enhanced considerably in the presence of TβRII. The preference of TGF-β2 to TβRI suggests a variation in its receptor recruitment in vivo. Although TGF-β1 and TGF-β3 bind and assemble their ternary complexes in a similar manner, their structural differences together with differences in the affinities and kinetics of their receptor binding may underlie their unique biological activities. Structural comparisons revealed that the receptor-ligand pairing in the TGF-β superfamily is dictated by unique insertions, deletions, and disulfide bonds rather than amino acid conservation at the interface. The binding mode of TβRII on TGF-β is unique to TGF-βs, whereas that of type II receptor for bone morphogenetic protein on bone morphogenetic protein appears common to all other cytokines in the superfamily. Further, extensive hydrogen bonds and salt bridges are present at the high affinity cytokine-receptor interfaces, whereas hydrophobic interactions dominate the low affinity receptor-ligand interfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14806-14814
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 7 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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