Dimerization of VEGF receptors and implications for signal transduction: A computational study

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84 Scopus citations


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent cytokine involved in the induction of neovascularization. Secreted as a cysteine-linked dimer, it has two binding sites at opposite poles through which it may bind VEGF receptors (VEGFRs), receptor tyrosine kinases found on the surface of endothelial and other cells. The binding of a VEGF molecule to two VEGFR molecules induces transphosphorylation of the intracellular domains of the receptors, leading to signal transduction. The dominant mechanism of receptor dimerization is not clear: the receptors may be present in an inactive pre-dimerized form, VEGF binding first to one of the receptors, the second receptor then ideally located for dimerization; or VEGF may bind receptor monomers on the cell surface, which then diffuse and bind to available unligated receptor monomers to complete the activation. Both processes take place and one or other may dominate on different cell types. We demonstrate the impact of dimerization mechanism on the binding of VEGF to the cell surface and on the formation of active signaling receptor complexes. We describe two methods to determine which process dominates, based on binding and phosphorylation assays. The presence of two VEGF receptor populations, VEGFR1 and VEGFR2, can result in receptor heterodimer formation. Our simulations predict that heterodimers will comprise 10-50% of the active, signaling VEGF receptor complexes, and that heterodimers will form at the expense of homodimers of VEGFR1 when VEGFR2 populations are larger. These results have significant implications for VEGF signal transduction and interpretation of experimental studies. These results may be applicable to other ligand-receptor pairs, in particular PDGF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-139
Number of pages15
JournalBiophysical Chemistry
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Growth factor
  • Heterodimer
  • Homodimer
  • Mathematical model
  • Receptor tyrosine kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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