Cell density sensing alters TGF-β signaling in a cell-type-specific manner, independent from Hippo pathway activation

Dev Cell. 2015 Mar 9;32(5):640-51. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2015.01.011.


Cell-cell contacts inhibit cell growth and proliferation in part by activating the Hippo pathway that drives the phosphorylation and nuclear exclusion of the transcriptional coactivators YAP and TAZ. Cell density and Hippo signaling have also been reported to block transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) responses, based on the ability of phospho-YAP/TAZ to sequester TGF-β-activated SMAD complexes in the cytoplasm. Herein, we provide evidence that epithelial cell polarization interferes with TGF-β signaling well upstream and independent of cytoplasmic YAP/TAZ. Rather, polarized basolateral presentation of TGF-β receptors I and II deprives apically delivered TGF-β of access to its receptors. Basolateral ligand delivery nonetheless remains entirely effective to induce TGF-β responses. These data demonstrate that cell-type-specific inhibition of TGF-β signaling by cell density is restricted to polarized epithelial cells and reflects the polarized distribution of TGF-β receptors, which thus affects SMAD activation irrespective of Hippo pathway activation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • TAZ protein, human
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • YY1AP1 protein, human
  • Hippo protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases