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Stimulation of the transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) family receptors activates an intracellular phosphorylation-dependent signaling cascade that culminates in Smad transcriptional activation and turnover. Structural studies have identified a number of allosteric mechanisms that control the localization, conformation, and oligomeric state of the receptors and Smads. Such mechanisms dictate the ordered binding of substrate and adaptor proteins that determine the directionality of the signaling process. Activation of the pathway has been illustrated by the various structures of the receptor-activated Smads (R-Smads) with SARA, Smad4, and YAP, respectively, whereas mechanisms of down-regulation have been elucidated by the structural complexes of FKBP12, Ski, and Smurf1. Interesting parallels have emerged between the R-Smads and the Forkhead-associated (FHA) and interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-associated domains, as well as the Hippo pathway. However, important questions remain as to the mechanism of Smad-independent signaling.

Original publication




Journal article


Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol

Publication Date





Down-Regulation, Protein Conformation, Signal Transduction, Smad Proteins, Transforming Growth Factor beta