Molecular characterization and in situ localization of murine endoglin reveal that it is a transforming growth factor-beta binding protein of endothelial and stromal cells.
Endoglin is an integral membrane glycoprotein predominantly expressed on human endothelial cells and recently shown to bind transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF beta 1) with high affinity. We now report the cloning and sequencing of a full-length murine endoglin complementary DNA of 2902 base pairs which hybridizes specifically with a single messenger RNA (mRNA) species. The polypeptide of 653 amino acids has an overall identity of 72% with human and porcine endoglin. The transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains of all three proteins differ by two to four amino acids and are 70% identical to the corresponding regions of the TGF beta binding protein, betaglycan. Relative levels of murine endoglin mRNA were estimated by polymerase chain reaction and found to be high in ovary and uterus, intermediate in heart and muscle, and low in placenta and spleen. In situ hybridization and immunofluorescence confirmed that murine endoglin, like its human counterpart, is present in blood vessels and capillaries in all tissues examined. In addition, the stromal cells in the connective tissue of intestine, stomach, heart, muscle, uterus, ovary, and testis were strongly and specifically reactive with complementary RNA probes and with a polyclonal antibody to endoglin; epithelial cell layers were distinctly unreactive. This distribution is similar to that of extracellular TGF beta 1, particularly in heart and uterus, and suggests that endoglin on stromal fibroblast-like cells might be regulating access of TGF beta 1 to the signaling receptor complex. NCTC-2071 fibroblasts in culture were shown to express high levels of endoglin mRNA by polymerase chain reaction. After chemical cross-linking with [125I]TGF beta 1 and immunoprecipitation with the polyclonal antihuman endoglin serum, a radiolabeled band of mol wt 180,000 corresponding to dimeric endoglin was observed under nonreducing conditions, whereas a single band of mol wt 90,000 was seen under reducing conditions. Thus murine fibroblast endoglin is capable of binding TGF beta 1. Future studies should establish the specialized role of endoglin in the TGF beta receptor complex of endothelial and stromal cells.