Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Oliver Bögler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Barton, PhD.

Committee Member

Dihua Yu M.D., PhD.

Committee Member

Zhimin Lu M.D., PhD.

Committee Member

Wei Zhang, PhD

Committee Member

Jill Shumacher, PhD.



Publication No._________

Marta Rojas, M.S.

Supervisory Professor: Oliver Bögler, Ph.D.

The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) has conducted a comprehensive analysis of a large tumor cohort and has cataloged genetic alterations involving primary sequence variations and copy number aberrations of genes involved in key signaling pathways in glioblastoma (GBM). This dataset revealed missense ectodomain point mutations in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), but the biological and clinical significance of these mutations is not well defined in the context of gliomas.

In our study, we focused on understanding and defining the molecular mechanisms underlying the functions of EGFR ectodomain mutants. Using proteomic approaches to broadly analyze cell signaling, including antibody array and mass spectrometry-based methods, we found a differential spectrum of tyrosine phosphorylation across the EGFR ectodomain mutations that enabled us to stratify them into three main groups that correlate with either wild type EGFR (EGFR) or the long-studied mutant, EGFRvIII. Interestingly, one mutant shared characteristics of both groups suggesting a continuum of behaviors along which different mutants fall. Surprisingly, no substantial differences were seen in activation of classical downstream signaling pathways such as Akt and S6 pathways between these classes of mutants. Importantly, we demonstrated that ectodomain mutations lead to differential tumor growth capabilities in both in vitro (anchorage independent colony formation) and in vivo conditions (xenografts). Our data from the biological characterization allowed us to categorize the mutants into three main groups: the first group typified by EGFRvIII are mutations with a more aggressive phenotype including R108K and A289T; a second group characterized by a less aggressive phenotype exemplified by EGFR and the T263P mutation; and a third group which shared characteristics from both groups and is exemplified by the mutation A289D. In addition, we treated cells overexpressing the mutants with various agents employed in the clinic including temozolomide, cisplatin and tarceva. We found that cells overexpressing the mutants in general displayed resistance to the treatments. Our findings yield insights that help with the molecular characterization of these mutants. In addition, our results from the drug studies might be valuable in explaining differential responses to specific treatments in GBM patients.