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1.  EGFR ligands exhibit functional differences in models of paracrine and autocrine signaling 
Epidermal growth factor (EGF) family peptides are ligands for the EGF receptor (EGFR). Here, we elucidate functional differences among EGFR ligands and mechanisms underlying these distinctions. In 32D/EGFR myeloid and MCF10A breast cells, soluble amphiregulin (AR), transforming growth factor alpha (TGFα), neuregulin 2 beta, and epigen stimulate greater EGFR coupling to cell proliferation and DNA synthesis than do EGF, betacellulin, heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor, and epiregulin. EGF competitively antagonizes AR, indicating that its functional differences reflect dissimilar intrinsic activity at EGFR. EGF stimulates much greater phosphorylation of EGFR Tyr1045 than does AR. Moreover, the EGFR Y1045F mutation and z-cbl dominant-negative mutant of the c-cbl ubiquitin ligase potentiate the effect of EGF but not of AR. Both EGF and AR stimulate phosphorylation of EGFR Tyr992. However, the EGFR Y992F mutation and phospholipase C gamma inhibitor U73122 reduce the effect of AR much more than that of EGF. Expression of TGFα in 32D/EGFR cells causes greater EGFR coupling to cell proliferation than does expression of EGF. Moreover, expression of EGF in 32D/EGFR cells causes these cells to be largely refractory to stimulation with soluble EGF. Thus, EGFR ligands are functionally distinct in models of paracrine and autocrine signaling and EGFR coupling to biological responses may be specified by competition among functionally distinct EGFR ligands.
PMCID: PMC3962550  PMID: 22260327
Amphiregulin; EGF; TGFα; EGF receptor; ligand specificity; autocrine and paracrine growth regulation
2.  Fulvestrant regulates epidermal growth factor (EGF) family ligands to activate EGF receptor (EGFR) signaling in breast cancer cells 
Estrogen receptor-α (ER) targeted therapies are routinely used to treat breast cancer. However, patient responses are limited by resistance to endocrine therapy. Breast cancer cells resistant to the pure steroidal ER antagonist fulvestrant (fulv) demonstrate increased activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family members and downstream ERK signaling. In this study we investigated the effects of fulv on EGFR signaling and ligand regulation in several breast cancer cell lines. EGFR/HER2/HER3 phosphorylation and ERK1,2 activation was seen after 24–48 hours after fulvestrant treatment in ER-positive breast cancer cell lines. 4-hydroxy-tamoxifen (4HT) and estradiol (E2) did not cause EGFR activation. Fulvestrant did not affect EGFR expression. Cycloheximide abolished the ability of fulv to activate EGFR suggesting autocrine production of EGFR ligands might be responsible for fulvestrant induced EGFR signaling. qRT-PCR results showed fulv differentially regulated EGFR ligands; HB-EGF mRNA was increased while amphiregulin (AREG) and epiregulin (EPR) mRNAs were decreased. Fulvestrant induced EGFR activation and upregulation of EGFR ligands was ER dependent since fulv treatment in C4-12, an ER negative cell line derivative of MCF-7 cells, did not result in EGFR activation or change in ligand mRNA levels. ER down regulation by siRNA induced similar EGFR activation and regulation of EGFR ligands as fulvestrant. Neutralizing HB-EGF antibody blocked fulv induced EGFR activation. Combination of fulv and EGFR family tyrosine kinase inhibitors (erlotinib and lapatinib) significantly decreased EGFR signaling and cell survival. In conclusion, fulvestrant activated EGFR family members accompanied by ER dependent upregulation of HB-EGF within 48 hours. EGF receptor or ligand inhibition might enhance or prolong the therapeutic effects of targeting ER by fulvestrant in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3711713  PMID: 23686416
fulvestrant; EGFR; EGFR ligands; breast Cancer Cell lines
3.  TACE/ADAM-17: A Component of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Axis and a Promising Therapeutic Target in Colorectal Cancer 
Activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) requires cell surface cleavage of EGFR ligands, uptake of soluble ligand by the receptor, and initiation of EGFR tyrosine kinase activity. We define these collective events as the EGFR axis. Transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) and amphiregulin are two EGFR ligands that are delivered preferentially to the basolateral surface of polarized epithelial cells where the EGFR resides. TACE/ADAM-17 (tumor necrosis factor-α converting enzyme/a disintegrin and metalloprotease) has been implicated in ectodomain cleavage of TGF-α and amphiregulin.
Experimental Design
Using a human polarizing colorectal cancer (CRC) cell line, HCA-7, and a tissue array of normal colonic mucosa and primary and metastatic CRC, we determined the intracellular localization of TACE and the effects of EGFR axis inhibition in CRC.
Herein, we show that TACE is localized to the basolateral plasma membrane of polarized HCA-7 cells. TACE is overexpressed in primary and metastatic CRC tumors compared with normal colonic mucosa; the intensity of its immunoreactivity is inversely correlated with that of TGF-α and amphiregulin. Pharmacologic blockade of HCA-7 cells with an EGFR monoclonal antibody, a selective EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, and a selective TACE inhibitor results in concentration-dependent decreases in cell proliferation and active, phosphorylated mitogen-activated protein kinase. Combining suboptimal concentrations of these agents results in cooperative growth inhibition, increased apoptosis, and reduced mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway activation. Furthermore, an EGFR tyrosine kinase – resistant clone of HCA-7 cells is growth-inhibited by combined monoclonal antibody and TACE inhibition.
These results implicate TACE as a promising target of EGFR axis inhibition in CRC.
PMCID: PMC3718282  PMID: 18281553
4.  A Potent Anti-HB-EGF Monoclonal Antibody Inhibits Cancer Cell Proliferation and Multiple Angiogenic Activities of HB-EGF 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51964.
Heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (HB-EGF) is a member of the epidermal growth factor family and has a variety of physiological and pathological functions. Modulation of HB-EGF activity might have a therapeutic potential in the oncology area. We explored the therapeutic possibilities by characterizing the in vitro biological activity of anti-HB-EGF monoclonal antibody Y-142. EGF receptor (EGFR) ligand and species specificities of Y-142 were tested. Neutralizing activities of Y-142 against HB-EGF were evaluated in EGFR and ERBB4 signaling. Biological activities of Y-142 were assessed in cancer cell proliferation and angiogenesis assays and compared with the anti-EGFR antibody cetuximab, the HB-EGF inhibitor CRM197, and the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) antibody bevacizumab. The binding epitope was determined with alanine scanning. Y-142 recognized HB-EGF as well as the EGFR ligand amphiregulin, and bound specifically to human HB-EGF, but not to rodent HB-EGF. In addition, Y-142 neutralized HB-EGF-induced phosphorylation of EGFR and ERBB4, and blocked their downstream ERK1/2 and AKT signaling. We also found that Y-142 inhibited HB-EGF-induced cancer cell proliferation, endothelial cell proliferation, tube formation, and VEGF production more effectively than cetuximab and CRM197 and that Y-142 was superior to bevacizumab in the inhibition of HB-EGF-induced tube formation. Six amino acids in the EGF-like domain were identified as the Y-142 binding epitope. Among the six amino acids, the combination of F115 and Y123 determined the amphiregulin cross-reactivity and that F115 accounted for the species selectivity. Furthermore, it was suggested that the potent neutralizing activity of Y-142 was derived from its recognition of R142 and Y123 and its high affinity to HB-EGF. Y-142 has a potent HB-EGF neutralizing activity that modulates multiple biological activities of HB-EGF including cancer cell proliferation and angiogenic activities. Y-142 may have a potential to be developed into a therapeutic agent for the treatment of HB-EGF-dependent cancers.
PMCID: PMC3522611  PMID: 23251664
5.  Src-Family Tyrosine Kinases in Wound- and Ligand-Induced Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Activation in Human Corneal Epithelial Cells 
The authors have previously demonstrated that wounding of human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs) transactivates epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR) and its downstream signaling pathways and that this EGFR signaling is required for epithelial wound healing. In this study, the authors sought to identify the underlying mechanisms for EGFR transactivation in response to wounding in HCECs.
SV40-immortalized HCEC (THCE) monolayer was wounded and allowed to heal in the presence or absence of a selective inhibitor of the Src family kinases PP2 and EGFR ligand heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF). Wound closure was monitored by photographing of the injury immediately or 24 hours after wounding. Activation of EGFR in THCE cells and in primary HCECs was analyzed by immunoprecipitation of EGFR, followed by Western blotting with phosphotyrosine antibody. Phosphorylation of extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK), AKT (a major substrate of phosphatidylinositol 3′-kinase [PI3K]), Src at tyrosine Y416, and EGFR at Y845 was analyzed by Western blotting with antibodies specific to phosphorylated proteins. Effects of PP2 on THCE cell migration were determined by Boyden chamber migration assay.
Among several inhibitors tested, PP2 blocked wound-induced EGFR phosphorylation in THCE cells. PP2 at 12.5 μM effectively inhibited EGFR transactivation in response to wounding and to the phosphorylation of ERK and AKT in THCE cells and primary HCECs. Consistent with the inhibition of EGFR transactivation, PP2 also attenuated epithelial migration and wound closure with or without exogenously added HB-EGF. PP2 at a concentration as high as 50 μM exhibited no effects on HB-EGF induced ERK phosphorylation. On the other hand, AKT phosphorylation was much more sensitive to PP2 than ERK or EGFR phosphorylation because 3.13 μM PP2 effectively inhibited wound- or HB-EGF-induced AKT phosphorylation.
These results suggest that Src kinase mediates wound-induced EGFR transactivation and participates in a pathway to activate the PI3K-AKT pathway downstream of EGFR in HCECs.
PMCID: PMC2666387  PMID: 16799022
6.  Distinct roles for ADAM10 and ADAM17 in ectodomain shedding of six EGFR ligands 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;164(5):769-779.
All ligands of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which has important roles in development and disease, are released from the membrane by proteases. In several instances, ectodomain release is critical for activation of EGFR ligands, highlighting the importance of identifying EGFR ligand sheddases. Here, we uncovered the sheddases for six EGFR ligands using mouse embryonic cells lacking candidate-releasing enzymes (a disintegrin and metalloprotease [ADAM] 9, 10, 12, 15, 17, and 19). ADAM10 emerged as the main sheddase of EGF and betacellulin, and ADAM17 as the major convertase of epiregulin, transforming growth factor α, amphiregulin, and heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor in these cells. Analysis of adam9/12/15/17−/− knockout mice corroborated the essential role of adam17−/− in activating the EGFR in vivo. This comprehensive evaluation of EGFR ligand shedding in a defined experimental system demonstrates that ADAMs have critical roles in releasing all EGFR ligands tested here. Identification of EGFR ligand sheddases is a crucial step toward understanding the mechanism underlying ectodomain release, and has implications for designing novel inhibitors of EGFR-dependent tumors.
PMCID: PMC2172154  PMID: 14993236
EGF receptor; EGF receptor ligands; ADAMs; ectodomain shedding; growth factor signaling
7.  Autocrine ligands of the epithelial growth factor receptor mediate inflammatory responses to diesel exhaust particles 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):22.
Diesel exhaust is associated with cardiovascular and respiratory mortality and morbidity. Acute exposure leads to increased IL-8 expression and airway neutrophilia, however the mechanism of this response is unknown. Objectives: As cigarette smoke-induced IL-8 expression by epithelial cells involves transactivation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), we studied the effects of diesel exhaust particles (DEP) on IL-8 release and the role of the EGFR.
Primary bronchial epithelial cells (PBEC) were exposed to DEPs or carbon black. IL-8 and EGFR ligand expression (transforming growth factor alpha (TGFα), heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor, and amphiregulin (AR)) were assessed by quantitative RT-PCR and ELISA.
DEP, but not carbon black, caused a dose-dependent increase in mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation and IL-8 expression, however above 50 μg/ml there was an increase in cytotoxicity. At 50 μg/ml, DEPs stimulated transcription and release of IL-8 and EGFR ligands. IL-8 release was blocked by EGFR neutralizing antibodies, an EGFR-selective tyrosine kinase inhibitor and by the metalloprotease inhibitor, GM6001, which blocks EGFR ligand shedding. Neutralizing antibodies to AR, TGFα and heparin-binding (HB)-EGF reduced DEP-induced IL-8 by >50%. Conclusion Expression of IL-8 in response to DEPs is dependent on EGFR activation and that autocrine production of EGFR ligands makes a substantial contribution to this response. Capsule Summary: This study identifies a mechanism whereby diesel particles stimulates IL-8 release from bronchial epithelial cells. This mechanism may help to explain the recruitment of neutrophils into the airways of people exposed to particulate air pollution.
PMCID: PMC3996104  PMID: 24555532
Air pollution; Neutrophilia; Inflammation; Epidermal growth factor receptor; Interleukin-8; Transactivation; Ligand shedding
8.  Direct activation of TACE-mediated ectodomain shedding by p38 MAP kinase regulates EGF receptor-dependent cell proliferation 
Molecular cell  2010;37(4):551-566.
Inflammatory stimuli activate ectodomain shedding of TNF-α, L-selectin and other transmembrane proteins. We show that p38 MAP kinase, which is activated in response to inflammatory or stress signals, directly activates TACE, a membrane-associated metalloprotease that effects shedding in response to growth factors and Erk MAP kinase activation. p38α MAP kinase interacts with the cytoplasmic domain of TACE, and phosphorylates it on Thr735, which is required for TACE-mediated ectodomain shedding. Activation of TACE by p38 MAP kinase results in the release of TGF-α family ligands, which activate EGF receptor signaling leading to enhanced cell proliferation. Conversely, depletion of p38α MAP kinase activity suppresses EGF receptor signaling and downstream Erk MAP kinase signaling, as well as autocrine EGF receptor-dependent proliferation. Autocrine EGF receptor activation through TACE-mediated ectodomain shedding intimately links inflammation and cancer progression, and may play a role in stress and conditions that relate to p38 MAP kinase activation.
PMCID: PMC4240279  PMID: 20188673
9.  Involvement of TNF-α Converting Enzyme in the Development of Psoriasis-Like Lesions in a Mouse Model 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112408.
TNF-α plays a crucial role in psoriasis; therefore, TNF inhibition has become a gold standard for the treatment of psoriasis. TNF-α is processed from a membrane-bound form by TNF-α converting enzyme (TACE) to soluble form, which exerts a number of biological activities. EGF receptor (EGFR) ligands, including heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF), amphiregulin and transforming growth factor (TGF)-α are also TACE substrates and are psoriasis-associated growth factors. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), one of the downstream molecules of EGFR and TNF signaling, plays a key role in angiogenesis for developing psoriasis. In the present study, to assess the possible role of TACE in the pathogenesis of psoriasis, we investigated the involvement of TACE in TPA-induced psoriasis-like lesions in K5.Stat3C mice, which represent a mouse model of psoriasis. In this mouse model, TNF-α, amphiregulin, HB-EGF and TGF-α were significantly up-regulated in the skin lesions, similar to human psoriasis. Treatment of K5.Stat3C mice with TNF-α or EGFR inhibitors attenuated the skin lesions, suggesting the roles of TACE substrates in psoriasis. Furthermore, the skin lesions of K5.Stat3C mice showed down-regulation of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-3, an endogenous inhibitor of TACE, and an increase in soluble TNF-α. A TACE inhibitor abrogated EGFR ligand-dependent keratinocyte proliferation and VEGF production in vitro, suggesting that TACE was involved in both epidermal hyperplasia and angiogenesis during psoriasis development. These results strongly suggest that TACE contributes to the development of psoriatic lesions through releasing two kinds of psoriasis mediators, TNF-α and EGFR ligands. Therefore, TACE could be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of psoriasis.
PMCID: PMC4226544  PMID: 25384035
10.  Normal CFTR Inhibits Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-Dependent Pro-Inflammatory Chemokine Production in Human Airway Epithelial Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72981.
Mutations in cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein cause cystic fibrosis, a disease characterized by exaggerated airway epithelial production of the neutrophil chemokine interleukin (IL)-8, which results in exuberant neutrophilic inflammation. Because activation of an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling cascade induces airway epithelial IL-8 production, we hypothesized that normal CFTR suppresses EGFR-dependent IL-8 production and that loss of CFTR at the surface exaggerates IL-8 production via activation of a pro-inflammatory EGFR cascade. We examined this hypothesis in human airway epithelial (NCI-H292) cells and in normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells containing normal CFTR treated with a CFTR-selective inhibitor (CFTR-172), and in human airway epithelial (IB3) cells containing mutant CFTR versus isogenic (C38) cells containing wild-type CFTR. In NCI-H292 cells, CFTR-172 induced IL-8 production EGFR-dependently. Pretreatment with an EGFR neutralizing antibody or the metalloprotease TACE inhibitor TAPI-1, or TACE siRNA knockdown prevented CFTR-172-induced EGFR phosphorylation (EGFR-P) and IL-8 production, implicating TACE-dependent EGFR pro-ligand cleavage in these responses. Pretreatment with neutralizing antibodies to IL-1R or to IL-1alpha, but not to IL-1beta, markedly suppressed CFTR-172-induced EGFR-P and IL-8 production, suggesting that binding of IL-1alpha to IL-1R stimulates a TACE-EGFR-IL-8 cascade. Similarly, in NHBE cells, CFTR-172 increased IL-8 production EGFR-, TACE-, and IL-1alpha/IL-1R-dependently. In IB3 cells, constitutive IL-8 production was markedly increased compared to C38 cells. EGFR-P was increased in IB3 cells compared to C38 cells, and exaggerated IL-8 production in the IB3 cells was EGFR-dependent. Activation of TACE and binding of IL-1alpha to IL-1R contributed to EGFR-P and IL-8 production in IB3 cells but not in C38 cells. Thus, we conclude that normal CFTR suppresses airway epithelial IL-8 production that occurs via a stimulatory EGFR cascade, and that loss of normal CFTR activity exaggerates IL-8 production via activation of a pro-inflammatory EGFR cascade.
PMCID: PMC3745379  PMID: 23977375
11.  Activation of EGFR by proteasome inhibition requires HB-EGF in pancreatic cancer cells 
Oncogene  2010;29(21):3146-3152.
Resistance to drug treatments underlies the high lethality of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). We and others have recently identified that proteasome inhibition is a promising therapeutic option in this highly refractory disease. The pleiotropic effects of proteasome inhibition include the activation of apoptotic signaling pathways and also anti-apoptotic signaling pathways such as EGFR, AKT and the MAP kinases that reduce the apoptotic potential of this class of drug. In the current study, we sought to determine the mechanism behind the activation of EGFR in response to proteasome inhibition in pancreatic cancer cells. We found that the second generation proteasome inhibitor NPI-0052 induced the mRNA transcription of several EGFR family ligands (EGF, HB-EGF and epiregulin), however only increases in HB-EGF were detected at the protein level. Using both pharmacological inhibitors and lentiviral mediated shRNA knock down of EGFR ligand expression, we discovered that ligand cleavage by MMP/ADAM’s and HB-EGF expression is required for activation of EGFR in response to proteasome inhibition. Furthermore we discover that induction of HB-EGF is dependent on reactive oxygen species and p38-MAPK signaling but not ERK and that the transcription factor SP-1 is involved in NPI-0052 induced HB-EGF transcription. Together these results indicate that stress signaling leading to induction of HB-EGF expression and increases in MMP/ADAM dependant HB-EGF cleavage are responsible for proteasome inhibitor induced activation of EGFR in pancreatic cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3134242  PMID: 20208558
Proteasome inhibition; NPI-0052; EGFR; HB-EGF; Pancreatic cancer
12.  Lysophosphatidic acid stimulates EGF-family ectodomain shedding and paracrine signaling from human lung fibroblasts 
Lysophospatidic acid (LPA) is a bioactive lipid mediator implicated in tissue repair and wound healing. It mediates diverse functional effects in fibroblasts, including proliferation, migration and contraction, but less is known about its ability to evoke paracrine signaling to other cell types involved in wound healing. We hypothesized that human pulmonary fibroblasts stimulated by LPA would exhibit ectodomain shedding of EGFR ligands that signal to lung epithelial cells. To test this hypothesis, we used alkaline phosphatase (AP) -tagged EGF receptor (EGFR) ligand plasmids transfected into CCL-151 lung fibroblasts, and ELISAs to detect shedding of native ligands. LPA induced shedding of transfected AP-tagged HB-EGF, amphiregulin and TGF-alpha;non-transfected fibroblasts shed amphiregulin and HB-EGF under baseline conditions, and increased shedding of HB-EGF in response to LPA.. Treatment of fibroblasts with LPA (10 μM) resulted in elevated phosphorylation of ERK1/2 (3.3 ± 0.04 fold induction at 5 minutes), enhanced expression of mRNA for c-fos (59 ± 7.9-fold at 30 minutes), HB-EGF (28 ± 4.7-fold at 4 hours) and amphiregulin (5.7 ± 1.8-fold at 4 hours), and enhanced proliferation at 96 hours. However, none of these fibroblast responses to LPA required ectodomain shedding or EGFR activity. To test the ability of LPA to stimulate paracrine signaling from fibroblasts, we transferred conditioned medium from LPA stimulated- CCL-151 cells, and found enhanced EGFR and ERK1/2 phosphorylation in reporter A549 cells in excess of what could be accounted for by transferred LPA alone. About one-third of th response (37%, P < 0.05) was attributable to EGFR activation. These data demonstrate that LPA mediates EGF-family ectodomain shedding, resulting in enhanced paracrine signaling from lung fibroblasts to epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3076689  PMID: 21362091
epidermal growth factor receptor; LPA; A549 cells
13.  Wound-Induced HB-EGF Ectodomain Shedding and EGFR Activation in Corneal Epithelial Cells 
Epithelial wound healing is, at least in part, mediated in an autocrine fashion by epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR)–ligand interactions. This study sought to identify the endogenous EGFR ligand and the mechanism by which it is generated in response to wounding in cultured porcine corneas and human corneal epithelial cells.
Epithelial debridement wounds in cultured porcine corneas and scratch wounds in an epithelial monolayer of SV40-immortalized human corneal epithelial (THCE) cells were allowed to heal in the presence of tyrphostin AG1478 (an EGFR inhibitor), GM6001 (a matrix metalloproteinase [MMP] inhibitor), or CRM197 (a diphtheria toxin mutant), with or without HB-EGF. The activation of EGFR and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) was analyzed by immunoprecipitation using EGFR antibodies and Western blot analysis with phosphotyrosine antibody. Wound induced HB-EGF shedding was assessed by isolation of secreted HB-EGF from wounded THCE cells and by measuring the release of alkaline phosphatase (AP) in THCE stable cell lines expressing HB-EGF-AP.
In THCE cells, wound-induced EGFR phosphorylation and ERK activation. In both organ and cell culture models, epithelial wounds were healed in basal media and inhibition of EGFR activation by AG1478 blocked wound closure with or without exogenously added HB-EGF. GM6001 delayed wound closure. Its effects diminished in the presence of exogenous EGF or HB-EGF, suggesting that the MMP inhibitor primarily blocks the release of EGFR ligands. CRM197, a highly specific antagonist of HB-EGF, impaired epithelial wound closure, suggesting that HB-EGF is an endogenous ligand released on epithelial wounding. Consistent with the effects on epithelial migration, all inhibitors as well as HB-EGF function-blocking antibodies retarded wound-induced EGFR phosphorylation in cultured THCE cells. The release of HB-EGF in response to wounding was demonstrated by the fact that heparin-binding proteins isolated from wounded, but not control, THCE-conditioned medium stimulated EGFR and ERK phosphorylation and by the expression of HB-EGF-AP in THCE cells, in which wounding induced the release of AP activity in an MMP-inhibitor–sensitive manner.
HB-EGF released on wounding acts as an autocrine–paracrine EGFR ligand. HB-EGF shedding and EGFR activation represent a critical event during corneal epithelial wound healing, suggesting a possible manipulation of wound healing during the early phases.
PMCID: PMC2666394  PMID: 14985295
14.  Tumorigenicity of cortical astrocyte cell line induced by the protease ADAM17 
Cancer science  2009;100(9):1597-1604.
The metalloprotease ADAM17 (a.k.a. TACE) plays a pivotal role in the cleavage and activation of membrane-anchored receptor ligands. More recently, it has been revealed that ADAM17 is a potent sheddase of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family of ligands and regulates epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activity in a variety of tumors. EGFR is a key component of autonomous growth signaling in several tumors, and correlates with the malignancy grade of astrocytoma. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that over-expression of ADAM17 in cortical astrocytes derived from normal brain would induce a progression towards a malignant phenotype. Over-expression of human ADAM17 (hADAM17) in the CTX-TNA2 cortical astrocyte cell line resulted in non-adherent growth, increased proliferation, invasiveness, production of angiogenic factors, and expression of genes associated with immature and/or neoplastic cells. hADAM17 up-regulated EGFR and AKT phosphorylation, and increased proliferation and cell invasion were significantly dependent upon EGFR activity. When implanted in the nude mouse brain, CTX-TNA2 cells induced low histological grade, benign intraventricular gliomas. In contrast, the same astrocytes with hADAM17 formed large malignant gliomas. Taken together, these findings suggest that unregulated ADAM17 activity induces functional changes in astrocytes that significantly advance the malignant phenotype.
PMCID: PMC2756136  PMID: 19515085
15.  Distinct Effects of EGFR Ligands on Human Mammary Epithelial Cell Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75907.
Based on gene expression patterns, breast cancers can be divided into subtypes that closely resemble various developmental stages of normal mammary epithelial cells (MECs). Thus, understanding molecular mechanisms of MEC development is expected to provide critical insights into initiation and progression of breast cancer. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and its ligands play essential roles in normal and pathological mammary gland. Signals through EGFR is required for normal mammary gland development. Ligands for EGFR are over-expressed in a significant proportion of breast cancers, and elevated expression of EGFR is associated with poorer clinical outcome. In the present study, we examined the effect of signals through EGFR on MEC differentiation using the human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT)-immortalized human stem/progenitor MECs which express cytokeratin 5 but lack cytokeratin 19 (K5+K19- hMECs). As reported previously, these cells can be induced to differentiate into luminal and myoepithelial cells under appropriate culture conditions. K5+K19- hMECs acquired distinct cell fates in response to EGFR ligands epidermal growth factor (EGF), amphiregulin (AREG) and transforming growth factor alpha (TGFα) in differentiation-promoting MEGM medium. Specifically, presence of EGF during in vitro differentiation supported development into both luminal and myoepithelial lineages, whereas cells differentiated only towards luminal lineage when EGF was replaced with AREG. In contrast, substitution with TGFα led to differentiation only into myoepithelial lineage. Chemical inhibition of the MEK-Erk pathway, but not the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-AKT pathway, interfered with K5+K19- hMEC differentiation. The present data validate the utility of the K5+K19- hMEC cells for modeling key features of human MEC differentiation. This system should be useful in studying molecular/biochemical mechanisms of human MEC differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3790811  PMID: 24124521
16.  Lysophosphatidic Acid Promoting Corneal Epithelial Wound Healing by Transactivation of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 
To identify the underlying mechanisms by which lipid mediator lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) acts as a growth factor in stimulating extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK) and phosphatidylinositol 3′-kinase (PI3K) during corneal epithelial wound healing.
Epithelial debridement wounds in cultured porcine corneas and scratch wounds in an epithelial monolayer of SV40-immortalized human corneal epithelial (THCE) cells were allowed to heal in the presence or absence of an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor (tyrphostin AG1478), a matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor (GM6001), or a heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) antagonist (CRM197) with or without LPA. EGFR activation was analyzed by immunoprecipitation using EGFR antibodies and Western blotting with phosphotyrosine antibodies. Phosphorylation of ERK and AKT (a major substrate of PI3K) was analyzed by Western blotting with antibodies specific to the phosphorylated proteins. Wound- and LPA-induced shedding of HB-EGF was assessed by measuring the release of alkaline phosphatase (AP) in a stable THCE cell line that expressed HB-EGF with AP inserted in the heparin-binding site.
In organ and cell culture models, LPA enhanced corneal epithelial wound healing. LPA-stimulated and spontaneous wound closure was attenuated by AG1478, GM6001, or CRM197. Consistent with the effects on epithelial migration, these inhibitors, as well as the Src kinase inhibitor (PP2), retarded LPA-induced activation of EGFR and its downstream effectors ERK and AKT in THCE cells. Unlike exogenously added HB-EGF, LPA stimulated moderate EGFR phosphorylation; the level of phosphorylated EGFR was similar to that induced by wounding. However, LPA appeared to prolong wound-induced EGFR signaling. The release of HB-EGF assessed by AP activity increased significantly in response to wounding, LPA, or both, and the release of HB-EGF-AP induced by LPA was inhibited by PP2 and GM6001.
LPA accelerates corneal epithelial wound healing through its ability to induce autocrine HB-EGF signaling. Transactivation of EGFR by LPA represents a convergent signaling pathway accessible to stimuli such as growth factors and ligands of G-protein– coupled receptors in response to pathophysiological challenge in human corneal epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC2665794  PMID: 17251460
17.  Heparin-binding EGF-like Growth Factor Signaling in Flow-induced Arterial Remodeling 
Circulation research  2008;102(10):1275-1285.
Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) is activated by reduced endothelial shear stress and stimulates smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation in vitro. More- over, HB-EGF is augmented at sites of intimal hyperplasia and atherosclerosis— conditions favored by low/disturbed shear stress. We thus tested whether HB-EGF contributes to low Flow-Induced NUegative hypertrophic Remodeling (FINR) of mouse carotid artery. Blood flow was surgically decreased in the left and increased in the right common carotids. After 21 days, left carotid exhibited lumen narrowing, thickening of intima-media and adventitia, and increased circumference that were inhibited by ~50% in HB-EGF+/- and ~90% in HB-EGF-/- mice. FINR was also inhibited by the EGF receptor inhibitor, AG1478. In contrast, eutrophic outward remodeling of the right carotid was unaffected in HB-EGF+/- and HB-EGF-/- mice or by AG1478. FINR-induced proliferation and leukocyte accumulation were reduced in HB-EGF-/-. FINR was associated with increased: reactive oxygen species, expression of pro-HB-EGF and TACE (pro-HB-EGF sheddase), phosphorylation of EGFR and Erk1/2, and NF-κB activity. Apocynin and deletion of p47phox inhibited FINR, while deletion of HB-EGF abolished NF-κB activation in SMCs. These findings suggest that HB-EGF signaling is required for low flow-induced hypertrophic remodeling and may participate in vascular wall disease and remodeling.
PMCID: PMC2752633  PMID: 18436796
artery; flow-mediated remodeling; HB-EGF; reactive oxygen species; NF-ķB
18.  Presence of EGF growth factor ligands and their effects on cultured rat conjunctival goblet cell proliferation 
Experimental eye research  2007;86(2):322-334.
The amount of mucin on the ocular surface is regulated by the rate of mucin synthesis, mucin secretion, and the number of goblet cells. We have previously shown that cholinergic agonists are potent stimuli of mucin secretion. In contrast, there have been no studies on the control of goblet cell proliferation. In this study we investigate the presence of the EGF family of growth factors and their receptors in rat conjunctiva and cultured rat conjunctival goblet cells as well as their effects on activation of signaling intermediates and goblet cell proliferation. Rat conjunctival goblet cells were grown in organ culture and identified as goblet cells by their morphology and positive staining for the lectin UEA-1 and cytokeratin 7. In the rat conjunctiva, the presence of the EGF family members epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor α (TGF-α), heparin binding EGF (HB-EGF), and heregulin was determined by RT-PCR. The receptors for these ligands, EGF receptor (EGFR), erbB2, erbB3, and erbB4 were detected in both rat conjunctiva and goblet cells by Western blot analysis. Immunofluorescence microscopy of conjunctival tissue determined that EGFR was present as punctate staining in the cytoplasm of conjunctival goblet cells while ErbB2 was present in the basolateral and lateral membranes of goblet cells. ErbB3 was localized to the cytosol of rat conjunctival goblet cells. In cultured goblet cells, EGFR and ErbB2 were present in the perinuclear area of the cells. ErbB3 was widely distributed throughout the cytoplasm of the cells. ErbB4 was not detected in either the conjunctiva or goblet cells by immunofluorescence microscopy. Using a multiplex assay system we measured phosphorylation (activation) of p44/p42 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), also known as ERK, Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), p38 MAPK and AKT (also known as protein kinase B), molecules known to be activated by EGF receptor members. EGF, TGF-α and HB-EGF activated the signaling intermediate proteins whereas heregulin did not. No EGF family member significantly activated AKT. Consistent with these findings, EGF, TGF-α and HB-EGF each stimulated goblet cell proliferation as measured by WST-1 assay or immunofluorescence microscopy using an antibody against Ki-67, a protein expressed in dividing cells. Heregulin did not cause goblet cell proliferation. We conclude that multiple members of the EGF family, EGF, TGF-α and HB-EGF, and heregulin are present with three of the four erbB receptor subtypes. EGF, TGF-α and HB-EGF all stimulated the activation of signaling intermediates and caused goblet cell proliferation.
PMCID: PMC2547492  PMID: 18155194
goblet cell; proliferation; secretion; conjunctiva
19.  Amphiregulin-EGFR signaling regulates PTHrP gene expression in breast cancer cells 
Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) is an autocrine/paracrine factor produced by breast cancer cells that is speculated to play a major role in permitting breast cancer cells to grow into the bone microenvironment by stimulating the bone resorption axis. It has been previously shown that EGFR signaling induces the production of PTHrP in several primary and transformed epithelial cell types. Therefore, we investigated the relationship between EGFR and PTHrP gene expression in human breast cancer cells. Of a panel of 7 breast epithelial and cancer cell lines, the osteolytic, EGFR- positive lines (MDA-MB-231 and NS2T2A1) exhibited higher levels of PTHrP transcript expression. Amphiregulin mRNA levels in all lines were approximately 2 orders of magnitude higher than those of TGFα or HBEGF. In the EGFR bearing lines, the receptor was phosphorylated at tyrosine 992 under basal conditions, and the addition of 100 nM amphiregulin did not lead to the phosphorylation of other tyrosine residues typically phosphorylated by the prototypical ligand EGF. Treatment of the EGFR positive lines with the EGFR inhibitor PD153035 and amphiregulin-neutralizing antibodies reduced PTHrP mRNA levels by 50–70%. Stable EGFR expression in the MCF7 line failed to increase basal PTHrP mRNA levels; however, treatment of this cell line with exogenous EGF or amphiregulin increased PTHrP transcription 3-fold. Transient transfection analysis suggests that the MAPK pathway and ETS transcription factors mediate EGFR coupling to PTHrP gene expression. Taken together, it appears that autocrine stimulation of EGFR signaling by amphiregulin is coupled to PTHrP gene expression via EGFR Tyr992 and MAPK, and that this pathway may contribute to PTHrP expression by breast tumor cells.
PMCID: PMC2730887  PMID: 17882547
Amphiregulin; Breast cancer; Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR); Parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP)
20.  ERK1/2 Mediate Wounding- and G-protein-Coupled Receptor Ligands–Induced EGFR Activation via Regulating ADAM17 and HB-EGF Shedding 
Previous studies have shown that wounding of human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs) results in the release of G-protein-coupled receptor ligands such as ATP and lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), which in turn transactivate epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR) through ectodomain shedding of heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF). In the present study, the role of extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 (ERK1/2) in regulating EGFR transactivation was investigated.
SV40-immortalized HCECs were wounded or stimulated with ATP and LPA. EGFR and ADAM17 activation was analyzed by immunoprecipitation followed by Western blot analysis with phospho-tyrosine or phospho-serine antibodies, respectively. Phosphorylation of ERK and AKT was analyzed by Western blot analysis. HB-EGF shedding was assessed by measuring the release of alkaline phosphatase (AP) in a stably transfected human corneal epithelial (THCE) cell line expressing HB-EGF-AP. ADAM17 and ERK interaction was determined by coimmunoprecipitation.
Early, but not late, ERK1/2 phosphorylation in response to wounding, LPA, and ATP was EGFR independent, but sensitive to the inhibitors of calcium influx, protein kinase C and Src kinase. Wounding-, LPA-, and ATP-induced HB-EGF shedding and EGFR activation were attenuated by the MAPK/ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitors PD98059 and U0126, as well as by ADAM10 and -17 inhibitors. ADAM17 was found to be physically associated with active ERK and phosphorylated at serine residues in an ERK-dependent manner in wounded cells.
Taken together, our data suggest that in addition to functioning as an EGFR downstream effector, ERK1/2 also mediates ADAM-dependent HB-EGF shedding and subsequent EGFR transactivation in response to a variety of stimuli, including wounding and GPCR ligands.
PMCID: PMC3656386  PMID: 18658095
21.  Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor Invasion Requires Aberrantly Expressed Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) Receptors and is Variably Enhanced by Multiple EGF Family Ligands 
Aberrant epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expression promotes the pathogenesis of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs), the most common malignancy associated with neurofibromatosis type 1, but the mechanisms by which EGFR expression promotes MPNST pathogenesis are poorly understood. We hypothesized that inappropriately expressed EGFRs promote MPNST invasion and found that these kinases are concentrated in MPNST invadopodia in vitro. EGFR knockdown inhibited the migration of unstimulated MPNST cells in vitro and exogenous EGF further enhanced MPNST migration in a substrate-specific manner, promoting migration on laminin and, to a lesser extent, collagen. Thus, in this setting, EGF acts as a chemotactic factor. We also found that the 7 known EGFR ligands (EGF, betacellulin, epiregulin, heparin-binding EGF, transforming growth factor α [TGFα], amphiregulin, and epigen) variably enhanced MPNST migration in a concentration-dependent manner, with TGFα being particularly potent. With the exception of epigen, these factors similarly promoted the migration of non-neoplastic Schwann cells. Although transcripts encoding all 7 EGFR ligands were detected in human MPNST cells and tumor tissues, only TGFα was consistently overexpressed and was found to colocalize with EGFR in situ. These data indicate that constitutive EGFR activation, potentially driven by autocrine or paracrine TGFα signaling, promotes the aggressive invasive behavior characteristic of MPNSTs.
PMCID: PMC3579504  PMID: 23399900
ErbB membrane tyrosine kinases; Nerve sheath tumor; Neurofibromatosis type 1; Schwann cell; Tumor cell invasion
22.  EBP50 inhibits EGF-induced breast cancer cell proliferation by blocking EGFR phosphorylation 
Amino Acids  2012;43(5):2027-2035.
Ezrin-radixin-moesin-binding phosphoprotein-50 (EBP50) suppresses breast cancer cell proliferation, potentially through its regulatory effect on epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling, although the mechanism by which this occurs remains unknown. Thus in our studies, we aimed to determine the effect of EBP50 expression on EGF-induced cell proliferation and activation of EGFR signaling in the breast cancer cell lines, MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7. In MDA-MB-231 cells, which express low levels of EBP50, EBP50 overexpression inhibited EGF-induced cell proliferation, ERK1/2 and AKT phosphorylation. In MCF-7 cells, which express high levels of EBP50, EBP50 knockdown promoted EGF-induced cell proliferation, ERK1/2 and AKT phosphorylation. Knockdown of EBP50 in EBP50-overexpressed MDA-MB-231 cells abrogated the inhibitory effect of EBP50 on EGF-stimulated ERK1/2 phosphorylation and restoration of EBP50 expression in EBP50-knockdown MCF-7 cells rescued the inhibition of EBP50 on EGF-stimulated ERK1/2 phosphorylation, further confirming that the activation of EGF-induced downstream molecules could be specifically inhibited by EBP50 expression. Since EGFR signaling was triggered by EGF ligands via EGFR phosphorylation, we further detected the phosphorylation status of EGFR in the presence or absence of EBP50 expression. Overexpression of EBP50 in MDA-MB-231 cells inhibited EGF-stimulated EGFR phosphorylation, whereas knockdown of EBP50 in MCF-7 cells enhanced EGF-stimulated EGFR phosphorylation. Meanwhile, total expression levels of EGFR were unaffected during EGF stimulation. Taken together, our data shows that EBP50 can suppress EGF-induced proliferation of breast cancer cells by inhibiting EGFR phosphorylation and blocking EGFR downstream signaling in breast cancer cells. These results provide further insight into the molecular mechanism by which EBP50 regulates the development and progression of breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3472071  PMID: 22476347
EBP50; EGFR; Protein interaction; Phosphorylation; ERK1/2; PDZ; Breast cancer
23.  Human breast cancer cells harboring a gatekeeper T798M mutation in HER2 overexpress EGFR ligands and are sensitive to dual inhibition of EGFR and HER2 
Mutations in receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) genes can confer resistance to receptor-targeted therapies. A T798M mutation in the HER2 oncogene has been shown to confer resistance to the tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) lapatinib. We studied the mechanisms of HER2-T798M-induced resistance to identify potential strategies to overcome that resistance.
Experimental Design
HER2-T798M was stably expressed in BT474 and MCF10A cells. Mutant cells and xenografts were evaluated for effects of the mutation on proliferation, signaling, and tumor growth after treatment with combinations of inhibitors targeting the EGFR-HER2-HER3-PI3K axis.
A low 3% allelic frequency of the T798M mutant shifted10-fold the IC50 of lapatinib. In mutant-expressing cells, lapatinib did not block basal phosphorylation of HER2, HER3, AKT and ERK1/2. In vitro kinase assays showed increased autocatalytic activity of HER2-T798M. HER3 association with PI3K p85 was increased in mutant-expressing cells. BT474-T798M cells were also resistant to the HER2 antibody trastuzumab. These cells were sensitive to the pan-PI3K inhibitors BKM120 and XL147 and the irreversible HER2/EGFR TKI afatinib but not the MEK1/2 inhibitor CI-1040, suggesting continued dependence of the mutant cells on ErbB receptors and downstream PI3K signaling. BT474-T798M cells showed increased expression of the EGFR ligands EGF, TGFα, amphiregulin and HB-EGF. Addition of the EGFR neutralizing antibody cetuximab or lapatinib restored trastuzumab sensitivity of BT474-T798M cells and xenografts, suggesting increased EGFR ligand production was causally associated with drug resistance.
Simultaneous blockade of HER2 and EGFR should be an effective treatment strategy against HER2 gene-amplified breast cancer cells harboring T798M mutant alleles.
PMCID: PMC3809918  PMID: 23948973
HER2; kinase domain mutations; EGFR; lapatinib; trastuzumab; cetuximab; breast cancer
24.  Transforming Growth Factor Alpha (TGFα) Regulates Granulosa Cell Tumor (GCT) Cell Proliferation and Migration through Activation of Multiple Pathways 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48299.
Granulosa cell tumors (GCTs) are the most common ovarian estrogen producing tumors, leading to symptoms of excessive estrogen such as endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial adenocarcinoma. These tumors have malignant potential and often recur. The etiology of GCT is unknown. TGFα is a potent mitogen for many different cells. However, its function in GCT initiation, progression and metastasis has not been determined. The present study aims to determine whether TGFα plays a role in the growth of GCT cells. KGN cells, which are derived from an invasive GCT and have many features of normal granulosa cells, were used as the cellular model. Immunohistochemistry, Western blot and RT-PCR results showed that the ErbB family of receptors is expressed in human GCT tissues and GCT cell lines. RT-PCR results also indicated that TGFα and EGF are expressed in the human granulosa cells and the GCT cell lines, suggesting that TGFα might regulate GCT cell function in an autocrine/paracrine manner. TGFα stimulated KGN cell DNA synthesis, cell proliferation, cell viability, cell cycle progression, and cell migration. TGFα rapidly activated EGFR/PI3K/Akt and mTOR pathways, as indicated by rapid phosphorylation of Akt, TSC2, Rictor, mTOR, P70S6K and S6 proteins following TGFα treatment. TGFα also rapidly activated the EGFR/MEK/ERK pathway, and P38 MAPK pathways, as indicated by the rapid phosphorylation of EGFR, MEK, ERK1/2, P38, and CREB after TGFα treatment. Whereas TGFα triggered a transient activation of Akt, it induced a sustained activation of ERK1/2 in KGN cells. Long-term treatment of KGN cells with TGFα resulted in a significant increase in cyclin D2 and a decrease in p27/Kip1, two critical regulators of granulosa cell proliferation and granulosa cell tumorigenesis. In conclusion, TGFα, via multiple signaling pathways, regulates KGN cell proliferation and migration and may play an important role in the growth and metastasis of GCTs.
PMCID: PMC3498304  PMID: 23155381
25.  Amphiregulin exosomes increase cancer cell invasion 
Current biology : CB  2011;21(9):779-786.
Autocrine, paracrine and juxtacrine are recognized modes of action for mammalian EGFR ligands that include EGF, TGF-α (TGFα), amphiregulin (AREG), heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF), betacellulin, epiregulin and epigen. We identify a new mode of EGFR ligand signaling via exosomes. Human breast and colorectal cancer cells release exosomes containing full-length, signaling-competent EGFR ligands. Exosomes isolated from MDCK cells expressing individual full-length EGFR ligands displayed differential activities; AREG exosomes increased invasiveness of recipient breast cancer cells four-fold over TGFα or HB-EGF exosomes and five-fold over equivalent amounts of recombinant AREG. Exosomal AREG displayed significantly greater membrane stability than TGFα or HB-EGF. An average of 24 AREG molecules are packaged within an individual exosome, and AREG exosomes are rapidly internalized by recipient cells. Whether the composition and behavior of exosomes differ between non-transformed and transformed cells is unknown. We show that exosomes from DLD-1 colon cancer cells with a mutant KRAS allele exhibited both higher AREG levels and greater invasive potential than exosomes from isogenically matched, non-transformed cells in which mutant KRAS was eliminated by homologous recombination. We speculate that EGFR ligand signaling via exosomes may contribute to diverse cancer phenomena such as field effect and priming the metastatic niche.
PMCID: PMC3417320  PMID: 21514161
Exosomes; EGF Receptor; amphiregulin; TGF-α; HB-EGF

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