Mutant epidermal growth factor receptor enhances induction of vascular endothelial growth factor by hypoxia and insulin-like growth factor-1 via a PI3 kinase dependent pathway.
Clarke K., Smith K., Gullick WJ., Harris AL.
Over-expression of truncated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) occurs in a variety of malignancies including glioblastoma multiforme, breast and lung cancer. The truncation deletes an extracellular domain and results in constitutive activation of the receptor. NIH3T3 cells were transfected with full length or truncated human EGFR and differences in growth rates in vivo and in vitro analysed. A growth advantage was seen for cells expressing mutant receptor compared to full length EGFR in vivo only. Administration of an anti-mutant EGFR antibody to mice transiently reduced the growth rates of mutant tumours, confirming that the mutant receptor itself was important in this enhanced tumorigenicity. This showed that stimuli present in vivo and not in vitro may be contributing to growth. We therefore analysed the regulation of the angiogenic factor vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Although levels of secreted VEGF did not differ significantly between wild-type and mutant EGFR cell lines when grown in vitro under normoxic conditions, following exposure to 0.1% hypoxia levels of VEGF produced by mutant cells increased 3.5-6.6 fold compared to 2 or less for full length EGFR cells. The fold induction was influenced by experimental conditions, including cell confluence and percentage of fetal bovine serum, but was consistently higher for mutant cell lines. The increase in VEGF under hypoxic conditions was blocked by the addition of PI3 kinase inhibitors, indicating that the latter pathway is important in the hypoxic stress response. Basal levels were not affected. Addition of insulin-like growth factor-1 also increased levels of VEGF under normoxic conditions in the mutant cells and no further increase was seen when added to cells exposed to 0.1% oxygen, indicating that levels of VEGF were already maximally stimulated. These results show that the mutant EGFR interacts with other growth factors and hypoxia to regulate VEGF via a PI3 kinase pathway, and suggests a specific role for anti-mutant EGFR antibodies and PI3 kinase inhibitors as therapy of this specific tumour target.