Context-dependent TGFβ family signalling in cell fate regulation


The transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) family are a large group of evolutionarily conserved cytokines whose signalling modulates cell fate decision-making across varying cellular contexts at different stages of life. Here we discuss new findings in early embryos that reveal how, in contrast to our original understanding of morphogen interpretation, robust cell fate specification can originate from a noisy combination of signalling inputs and a broad range of signalling levels. We compare this evidence with novel findings on the roles of TGFβ family signalling in tissue maintenance and homeostasis during juvenile and adult life, spanning the skeletal, haemopoietic and immune systems. From these comparisons, it emerges that in contrast to robust developing systems, relatively small perturbations in TGFβ family signalling have detrimental effects at later stages in life, leading to aberrant cell fate specification and disease, for example in cancer or congenital disorders. Finally, we highlight novel strategies to target and amend dysfunction in signalling and discuss how gleaning knowledge from different fields of biology can help in the development of therapeutics for aberrant TGFβ family signalling in disease.

Journal details

Volume 24
Issue number 12
Pages 876-894
Available online
Publication date