The transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) cytokines are a multi-functional family that exert a wide variety of effects on both normal and transformed mammalian cells. The secretion and activation of TGFβs is regulated by their association with latency-associated proteins and latent TGFβ binding proteins (LTBPs). Over the past few years, three members of the LTBP family have been identified, in addition to the protoype LTBP1 first sequenced in 1990. Three of the LTBP family are expressed in a variety of isoforms as a consequence of alternative splicing. This review summarizes the differences between the isoforms in terms of the effects on domain structure and hence possible function. The close identity between LTBPs and members of the fibrillin family, mutations in which have been linked directly to Marfan's syndrome, suggests that anomalous expression of LTBPs may be associated with disease. Recent data indicating that differential expression of LTBP1 isoforms occurs during the development of coronary heart disease is considered, together with evidence that modulation of LTBP function, and hence of TGFβ activity, is associated with a variety of cancers.

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