Human granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (hGM-CSF) receptor (hGMR) consists of alpha and beta subunits, and the precise stoichiometry of these subunits has remained to be determined. In this work, oligomerization of the beta subunit was studied using a chemical cross-linker. In Ba/F3, a mouse interleukin-3-dependent cell line expressing both subunits of hGMR (Ba/F3-alpha,beta), a protein with a molecular mass corresponding to that of a homodimer of the beta subunit (beta homodimer) was detected only when cells were treated with the cross-linker. Dimerization of the beta subunit was confirmed by coimmunoprecipitation of a tagged beta subunit with the wild type beta subunit COS7 cells. The beta homodimer had already formed in the absence of hGM-CSF, whereas stimulation with the ligand brought both alpha and beta subunits into a complex, the result being tyrosine phosphorylation of the beta homodimer. Tyrosine phosphorylation of the subunit was impaired by deletion of the cytoplasmic domain of the alpha subunit without interfering with the association of both subunits. These results indicate that the beta homodimer, which alone is insufficient for signaling, forms the functional hGMR with the alpha subunit in response to hGM-CSF.

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