Activin signaling and its role in regulation of cell proliferation, apoptosis, and carcinogenesis

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2006 May;231(5):534-44. doi: 10.1177/153537020623100507.


Activins, cytokine members of the transforming growth factor-beta superfamily, have various effects on many physiological processes, including cell proliferation, cell death, metabolism, homeostasis, differentiation, immune responses endocrine function, etc. Activins interact with two structurally related serine/threonine kinase receptors, type I and type II, and initiate downstream signaling via Smads to regulate gene expression. Understanding how activin signaling is controlled extracellularly and intracellularly would not only lead to more complete understanding of cell growth and apoptosis, but would also provide the basis for therapeutic strategies to treat cancer and other related diseases. This review focuses on the recent progress on activin-receptor interactions, regulations of activin signaling by ligand-binding proteins, receptor-binding proteins, and nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of Smad proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activin Receptors / metabolism
  • Activins / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Follistatin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Smad2 Protein / metabolism
  • Smad3 Protein / metabolism


  • Follistatin
  • Smad2 Protein
  • Smad3 Protein
  • Activins
  • Activin Receptors