The cell surface receptor FGFRL1 forms constitutive dimers that promote cell adhesion

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FGFRL1 is a novel member of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptor family. Utilizing the FRET (fluorescence resonance energy transfer) technique, we demonstrate that FGFRL1 forms constitutive homodimers at cell surfaces. The formation of homodimers was verified by co-precipitation of differentially tagged FGFRL1 polypeptides from solution. If overexpressed in cultivated cells, FGFRL1 was found to be enriched at cell–cell contact sites. The extracellular domain of recombinant FGFRL1 promoted cell adhesion, but not cell spreading, when coated on plastic surfaces. Adhesion was mediated by heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans located at the cell surface. It could specifically be blocked by addition of soluble heparin but not by addition of other glycosaminoglycans. When the amino acid sequence of the putative heparin-binding site was modified by in vitro mutagenesis, the resulting protein exhibited decreased affinity for heparin and reduced activity in the cell-binding assay. Moreover, a synthetic peptide corresponding to the heparin-binding site was able to neutralize the effect of heparin. With its dimeric structure and its adhesion promoting properties, FGFRL1 resembles the nectins, a family of cell adhesion molecules found at cell–cell junctions.

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