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Open Access Research article

Intracellular mediators of transforming growth factor β superfamily signaling localize to endosomes in chicken embryo and mouse lenses in vivo

Ramya Rajagopal1, Shunsuke Ishii3 and David C Beebe12*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, USA

2 Dept. Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

3 Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, RIKEN Tsukuba Institute, Ibaraki, Japan

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BMC Cell Biology 2007, 8:25  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-8-25

Published: 25 June 2007



Endocytosis is a key regulator of growth factor signaling pathways. Recent studies showed that the localization to endosomes of intracellular mediators of growth factor signaling may be required for their function. Although there is substantial evidence linking endocytosis and growth factor signaling in cultured cells, there has been little study of the endosomal localization of signaling components in intact tissues or organs.


Proteins that are downstream of the transforming growth factor-β superfamily signaling pathway were found on endosomes in chicken embryo and postnatal mouse lenses, which depend on signaling by members of the TGFβ superfamily for their normal development. Phosphorylated Smad1 (pSmad1), pSmad2, Smad4, Smad7, the transcriptional repressors c-Ski and TGIF and the adapter molecules Smad anchor for receptor activation (SARA) and C184M, localized to EEA-1- and Rab5-positive vesicles in chicken embryo and/or postnatal mouse lenses. pSmad1 and pSmad2 also localized to Rab7-positive late endosomes. Smad7 was found associated with endosomes, but not caveolae. Bmpr1a conditional knock-out lenses showed decreased nuclear and endosomal localization of pSmad1. Many of the effectors in this pathway were distributed differently in vivo from their reported distribution in cultured cells.


Based on the findings reported here and data from other signaling systems, we suggest that the localization of activated intracellular mediators of the transforming growth factor-β superfamily to endosomes is important for the regulation of growth factor signaling.