Protein phosphatases play a key role in balancing the cellular responses to the transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) signals. Several protein phosphatases have been attributed roles in the regulation of the TGFβ pathway. Among these, PPM1A is the only phosphatase reported to dephosphorylate SMAD2/3 in the nucleus. However we observed PPM1A exclusively in the cytoplasmic fractions independently of TGFβ treatment in all cells tested. These observations imply that a bona fide nuclear SMAD2/3 phosphatase remains elusive. In this study, we report a role for protein phosphatase 5 (PP5) in the TGFβ pathway. We identified PP5 as an interactor of SMAD2/3. Interestingly, in mouse embryonic fibroblast cells derived from PP5-null mice, TGFβ-induced transcriptional responses were significantly enhanced. Rather surprisingly, this enhancement is due to the increased levels of SMAD3 protein observed in PP5-null MEFs compared to the wild type. No differences in the levels of SMAD3 transcripts were observed between the wild-type and PP5-null MEFs. While PP5 is capable of dephosphorylating SMAD3-tail in overexpression assays, we demonstrate that its activity is essential in controlling SMAD3 protein levels in MEFs. We propose that PP5 regulates the TGFβ pathway in MEFs by regulating the expression of SMAD3 protein levels.
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