del Re E, Sidis Y, Fabrizio DA, Lin HY, Schneyer A
J. Biol. Chem. 2004 Dec;279(51):53126-35
Activins and inhibins compose a heterogeneous subfamily within the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) superfamily of growth and differentiation factors with critical biological activities in embryos and adults. They signal through a heteromeric complex of type II, type I, and for inhibin, type III receptors. To characterize the affinity, specificity, and activity of these receptors (alone and in combination) for the inhibin/activin subfamily, we developed a cell-free assay system using soluble receptor-Fc fusion proteins. The soluble activin type II receptor (sActRII)-Fc fusion protein had a 7-fold higher affinity for activin A compared with sActRIIB-Fc, whereas both receptors had a marked preference for activin A over activin B. Although inhibin A and B binding was 20-fold lower compared with activin binding to either type II receptor alone, the mixture of either type II receptor with soluble TGF-beta type III receptor (TbetaRIII; betaglycan)-Fc reconstituted a soluble high affinity inhibin receptor. In contrast, mixing either soluble activin type II receptor with soluble activin type I receptors did not substantially enhance activin binding. Our results support a cooperative model of binding for the inhibin receptor (ActRII.sTbetaRIII complex) but not for activin receptors (type II + type I) and demonstrate that a complex composed of activin type II receptors and TbetaRIII is both necessary and sufficient for high affinity inhibin binding. This study also illustrates the utility of this cell-free system for investigating hypotheses of receptor complex mechanisms resulting from crystal structure analyses.