Coco is a dual-activity modulator of TGF-β signaling

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Alessia Deglincerti, Tomomi Haremaki, Aryeh Warmflash, Benoit Sorre, Ali H. Brivanlou

The TGFβ signaling pathway is a critical regulator of developmental processes and disease. The activity of TGFβ ligands is modulated by various families of soluble inhibitors that interfere with the interactions between ligands and receptors. In an unbiased, genome-wide RNAi screen to identify genes involved in ligand-dependent signaling, we unexpectedly identified the BMP/Activin/Nodal inhibitor Coco as an enhancer of TGFβ1 signaling. Coco synergizes with TGFβ1 in both cell culture and Xenopus explants. Molecularly, Coco binds to TGFβ1 and enhances TGFβ1 binding to its receptor Alk5. Thus, Coco acts both as an inhibitor and an enhancer of signaling depending on the ligand it binds. This finding raises the need for a global reconsideration of the molecular mechanisms regulating TGFβ signaling.