Endoglin is a homodimeric membrane glycoprotein which can bind the beta 1 and beta 3 isoforms of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). We reported previously that endoglin is upregulated during monocyte differentiation. We have now observed that TGF-beta itself can stimulate the expression of endoglin in cultured human monocytes and in the U-937 monocytic line. To study the functional role of endoglin, stable transfectants of U-937 cells were generated which overexpress L- or S- endoglin isoforms, differing in their cytoplasmic domain. Inhibition of cellular proliferation and downregulation of c-myc mRNA which are normally induced by TGF-beta 1 in U-937 cells were totally abrogated in L-endoglin transfectants and much reduced in the S-endoglin transfectants. Inhibition of proliferation by TGF-beta 2 was not altered in the transfectants, in agreement with the isoform specificity of endoglin. Additional responses of U-937 cells to TGF-beta 1, including stimulation of fibronectin synthesis, cellular adhesion, platelet/endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 (PECAM-1) phosphorylation, and homotypic aggregation were also inhibited in the endoglin transfectants. However, modulation of integrin and PECAM-1 levels and stimulation of mRNA levels for TGF-beta 1 and its receptors R-I, R-II, and betaglycan occurred normally in the endoglin transfectants. No changes in total ligand binding were observed in L-endoglin transfectants relative to mock, while a 1.5-fold increase was seen in S-endoglin transfectants. The degradation rate of the ligand was the same in all transfectants. Elucidating the mechanism by which endoglin modulates several cellular responses to TGF-beta 1 without interfering with ligand binding or degradation should increase our understanding of the complex pathways which mediate the effects of this factor.

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