Hart PJ, et al. (Nat Struct Biol. 2002)
found physical evidence --crystal structure of the human TbetaR2 ectodomain--TGF-beta3 complex, which suggests ecTbetaR1 and ecTbetaR2 bind at adjacent positions on the ligand surface and directly contact each other via protein--protein interactions.
Germ line mutations in one of two distinct genes, endoglin or ALK-1, cause hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), an autosomal dominant disorder of localized angiodysplasia. Both genes encode endothelial cell receptors for the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) ligand superfamily. Endoglin has homology to the type III receptor, betaglycan, although its exact role in TGF-beta signaling is unclear. Activin receptor-like kinase 1 (ALK-1) has homology to the type I receptor family, but its ligand and corresponding type II receptor are unknown. In order to identify the ligand and type II receptor for ALK-1 and to investigate the role of endoglin in ALK-1 signaling, Lux et al. 1999
devised a chimeric receptor signaling assay by exchanging the kinase domain of ALK-1 with either the TGF-beta type I receptor or the activin type IB receptor, both of which can activate an inducible PAI-1 promoter. They found that TGF-beta1 and TGF-beta3, as well as a third unknown ligand present in serum, can activate chimeric ALK-1. HHT-associated missense mutations in the ALK-1 extracellular domain abrogate signaling. The ALK-1/ligand interaction is mediated by the type II TGF-beta receptor for TGF-beta and most likely through the activin type II or type IIB receptors for the serum ligand. Endoglin is a bifunctional receptor partner since it can bind to ALK-1 as well as to type I TGF-beta receptor. These data suggest that HHT pathogenesis involves disruption of a complex network of positive and negative angiogenic factors, involving TGF-beta, a new unknown ligand, and their corresponding receptors.