FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Complexity of FGF receptors: genetic basis for structural diversity and functional specificity.

PMID 1464370


Since 1989, the receptors for fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) were cloned and characterized as a subgroup of the family of receptor tyrosine kinases. Four FGF receptor genes were identified, all of which encode membrane-bound glycoproteins containing three immunoglobulin (Ig) -like domains at the extracellular region, where only two of these domains are involved in ligand binding. Three unique features characterize the FGF receptors: 1) overlapping recognition and redundant specificity, where one receptor may bind with a similar affinity several of the seven known FGFs and one FGF may bind similarly to several distinct receptors. 2) The binding of FGFs to their receptors is dependent on the interaction of FGF with cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycans. 3) A multitude of isoforms of cell-bound or secreted receptors are produced by the same gene. The gene structure of these receptors revealed two major mechanisms that are responsible for the formation of the diverse forms: alternative mRNA splicing, resulting in deletions or alternate exons usage, and internal polyadenylation, resulting in truncated products. These are reminiscent of mechanisms that also operate in the immunoglobulin family to generate diversity and to produce either secreted or cell-bound molecules. Tissue-specific alternative splicing in FGF receptors allows for the generation of two distinct receptors from a single gene because alternative exons determine the sequence of the COOH-terminal half of the third Ig-like domain involved in ligand binding. This represents a novel genetic mechanism to generate receptor diversity and specificity and to increase receptor repertoire.