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The type II transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta receptor gene (TGFBR2) is often mutated in nucleotide repeat sequences in colorectal cancers that are replication error positive (RER+). These mutations are thought to be selected for escape from growth inhibition by TGF-beta rather than representing bystander events because of an increased mutation rate. We investigated the role of TGFBR2 mutations in 12 colorectal cancer cell lines. Six of these were RER+, and these were shown to have homozygous TGFBR2 mutations. All cell lines then were tested for changes in proliferation in response to TGF-beta stimulation. Despite homozygous mutation of the type II TGF-beta receptor, two RER+ cell lines, Lovo and SW48, showed statistically significant growth inhibition when stimulated by TGF-beta1 in serum-free conditions. This shows that the type II TGF-beta receptor can be bypassed in certain cases to maintain growth inhibition. We next investigated whether there was any alternative mode through which TGFBR2 mutation may give a selective advantage, such as a change in adhesion molecule expression. All cell lines were stimulated with TGF-beta1 and adhesion molecules detected by ELISA. No consistent changes were identified between the RER+ and the RER- cell lines, although changes in E-cadherin, beta-catenin, and gamma-catenin were identified in individual cell lines. We conclude that (i) type II TGF-beta receptor activity can be bypassed and thus TGFBR2 mutations in RER+ cancers may, at least sometimes, be just "bystander" events and (ii) TGF-beta can affect adhesion molecule expression so that TGFBR2 mutation may give rise to a selective advantage through an effect other escape from growth inhibition.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





3087 - 3091


Cell Adhesion, Cell Adhesion Molecules, Cell Division, Colorectal Neoplasms, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Humans, Mutation, Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta, Transforming Growth Factor beta, Tumor Cells, Cultured