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King and collaborators publish in Communications Biology

A new article published in the journal Communications Biology embodies a collaborative endeavor from Matthew King, assistant professor of chemistry, with colleagues from University of Washington, University of Missouri, Michigan State University and Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine. The article emerged from the research efforts of recently funded NIH R01 research grant (PI: Dr. Ken Fujise, University of Washington) studying the interaction of the fortilin protein with concomitant functional proteins affecting atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases.

Read the full article: “Fortilin interacts with TGF-β1 and prevents TGF-β receptor activation.”


Fortilin is a 172-amino acid multifunctional protein present in both intra- and extracellular spaces. Although fortilin binds and regulates various cellular proteins, the biological role of extracellular fortilin remains unknown. Here we report that fortilin specifically interacts with TGF-β1 and prevents it from activating the TGF-β1 signaling pathway. In a standard immunoprecipitation-western blot assay, fortilin co-immunoprecipitates TGF-β1 and its isoforms. The modified ELISA assay shows that TGF-β1 remains complexed with fortilin in human serum. Both bio-layer interferometry and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) reveal that fortilin directly bind TGF-β1. The SPR analysis also reveals that fortilin and the TGF-β receptor II (TGFβRII) compete for TGF-β1. Both luciferase and secreted alkaline phosphatase reporter assays show that fortilin prevents TGF-β1 from activating Smad3 binding to Smad-binding element. Fortilin inhibits the phosphorylation of Smad3 in both quantitative western blot assays and ELISA. Finally, fortilin inhibits TGFβ-1-induced differentiation of C3H10T1/2 mesenchymal progenitor cells to smooth muscle cells. A computer-assisted virtual docking reveals that fortilin occupies the pocket of TGF-β1 that is normally occupied by TGFβRII and that TGF-β1 can bind either fortilin or TGFβRII at any given time. These data support the role of extracellular fortilin as a negative regulator of the TGF-β1 signaling pathway.