Control of fibroblast growth factor receptor kinase signal transduction by heterodimerization of combinatorial splice variants

Ergang Shi, Mikio Kan, Jianming Xu, Fen Wang, Jinzhao Hou, Wallace L. McKeehan

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135 Scopus citations


A differentiated liver cell (HepG2), which exhibits a dose-dependent growth-stimulatory and growth-inhibitory response to heparin-binding fibroblast growth factor type 1 (FGF-1), displays high- and low-affinity receptor phenotypes and expresses specific combinatorial splice variants α1, β1, and α2 of the FGF receptor (FGF-R) gene (flg). The extracellular domains of the α and β variants consist of three and two immunoglobulin loops, respectively, while the intracellular variants consist of a tyrosine kinase (type 1) isoform and a kinase-defective (type 2) isoform. The type 2 isoform is also devoid of the two major intracellular tyrosine autophosphorylation sites (Tyr-653 and Tyr-766) in the type 1 kinase. An analysis of ligand affinity, dimerization, autophosphorylation, and interaction with src homology region 2 (SH2) substrates of the recombinant α1, β1, and α2 isoforms was carried out to determine whether dimerization of the combinatorial splice variants might explain the dose-dependent opposite mitogenic effects of FGF. Scatchard analysis indicated that the α and β isoforms exhibit low and high affinity for ligand, respectively. The three combinatorial splice variants dimerized in all combinations. FGF enhanced dimerization and kinase activity, as assessed by receptor autophosphorylation. Phosphopeptide analysis revealed that phosphorylation of Tyr-653 was reduced relative to phosphorylation of Tyr-766 in the type 1 kinase component of heterodimers of the type 1 and type 2 isoforms. The SH2 domain substrate, phospholipase Cγ1 (PLCγ1), associated with the phosphorylated type 1-type 2 heterodimers but was phosphorylated only in preparations containing the type 1 kinase homodimer. The results suggest that phosphorylation of Tyr-653 within the kinase catalytic domain, but not Tyr-766 in the COOH-terminal domain, may be stringently dependent on a trans intermolecular mechanism within FGF-R kinase homodimers. Although phosphotyrosine 766 is sufficient for interaction of PLCγ1 and other SH2 substrates with the FGF-R kinase, phosphorylation and presumably activation of substrates require the kinase homodimer and phosphorylation of Tyr-653. We propose that complexes of phosphotyrosine 766 kinase monomers and SH2 domain signal transducers may constitute unactivated presignal complexes whose active or inactive fate depends on homodimerization with a kinase or heterodimerization with a kinase-defective monomer, respectively. The results suggest a mechanism for control of signal transduction by different concentrations of ligand through heterodimerization of combinatorial splice variants from the same receptor gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3907-3918
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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