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Thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1), a new bone morphogenetic protein-2 and -4 (BMP-2/4) antagonist identified in pituitary cells


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) regulate diverse cellular responses during embryogenesis and in adulthood including cell differentiation, proliferation and death in various tissues. In the adult pituitary, BMPs participate in the control of hormone secretion and cell proliferation suggesting a potential endocrine/paracrine role for BMPs, but some of the mechanisms are unclear. Here, using a bioactivity test based on embryonic cells (C3H10T1/2) transfected with a BMP-responsive element, we sought to determine whether pituitary cells secrete BMPs or BMP antagonists. Interestingly, we found that pituitary-conditioned medium contains a factor that inhibits action of BMP-2 and -4. Combining surface plasmon resonance (SPR) and high-resolution mass spectrometry helped pinpoint this factor as thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1). SPR and co-immunoprecipitation confirmed that recombinant human TSP-1 can bind BMP-2 and -4 and antagonize their effects on C3H10T1/2 cells. Moreover, TSP-1 inhibited the action of serum BMPs. We also report that the von Willebrand type C (VWC) domain of TSP-1 is likely responsible for this BMP-2/4 binding activity, an assertion based on sequence similarity that TSP-1 shares with the VWC domain of Crossveinless 2 (CV-2), a BMP antagonist and member of the chordin family. In summary, we identified for the first time TSP-1 as a BMP-2/-4 antagonist and presented structural basis for the physical interaction between TSP-1 and BMP-4. We propose that TSP-1 could regulate bioavailability of BMPs, either produced locally or reaching the pituitary via the blood circulation. In conclusion, our findings provide new insights into the involvement of TSP-1 in the BMP-2/-4 mechanisms of action.