Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family members regulate a variety of cellular functions and play important roles in cell differentiation. Activin receptor-like kinase 7 (ALK7), a receptor for TGF-β family members, was initially cloned from rats as an orphan receptor and has been recently shown to be a type I receptor for nodal, activin B and activin AB. ALK7 is expressed not only in neurons, but also in insulin-producing islet β cells and white and brown adipose tissues; however, the specific functions of ALK7 in these tissues are not known. In order to test whether ALK7 is involved in adipocyte differentiation, we analyzed its expression during adipocyte differentiation. ALK7 expression was detected in the late phase of adipocyte differentiation by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), Western blotting and immunofluorescence staining in 3T3-L1 cells. We also detected the expression of ALK7 by RT-PCR in stromal vascular fraction (SVF) cells. These results indicated that ALK7 is a novel marker specifically expressed during the late phase of adipocyte differentiation. Furthermore, our results suggest the possible involvement of nodal or activin B in adipocyte differentiation.
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