The transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) family members, which include TGF-betas, activins and bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), are structurally related secreted cytokines found in species ranging from worms and insects to mammals. A wide spectrum of cellular functions such as proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation and migration are regulated by TGF-beta family members.
TGF-beta family member binds to the Type II receptor and recruits Type I, whereby Type II receptor phosphorylates and activates Type I. The Type I receptor, in turn, phosphorylates receptor-activated Smads ( R-Smads: Smad1, Smad2, Smad3, Smad5, and Smad8). Once phosphorylated, R-Smads associate with the co-mediator Smad, Smad4, and the heteromeric complex then translocates into the nucleus. In the nucleus, Smad complexes activate specific genes through cooperative interactions with other DNA-binding and coactivator (or co-repressor) proteins.