Receptor tyrosine kinase HER2-mediated signaling pathways in metastasis and angiogenesis

Yan Li, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Metastasis, the major cause of morbidity and mortality in most cancers, is a highly organized and organ-selective process. The receptor tyrosine kinase HER2 enhances tumor metastasis, however, its role in homing to metastatic organs is poorly understood. The chemokine receptor CXCR4 has recently been shown to mediate the malignant cancer cells to specific organs. Here we show that HER2 enhances the expression of CXCR4 by increasing CXCR4 protein synthesis and inhibiting its degradation. We also observed significant correlation between HER2 and CXCR4 expression in human breast tumor tissues, and an association between CXCR4 expression and a poor overall survival rate in patients with breast cancer. Furthermore, we found that CXCR4 is required for HER2-induced invasion, migration, and adhesion activities in vitro . Finally we established stable transfectants using retroviral RNA interference to inhibit CXCR4 expression and showed that the CXCR4 is required for HER2-mediated lung metastasis in vivo. These results provide a plausible mechanism for HER2-mediated breast tumor metastasis and homing to metastatic organs, and establish a functional link between the receptor tyrosine kinase HER2 and the chemokine receptor CXCR4 signaling pathways. The HER2 overexpression activates PI-3K/Akt pathways and plays an important role in mediating cell survival and tumor development. Hypoxia inducible factors (HIF) are the key regulator for angiogenesis and energy metabolism, and thereby enhance tumor growth and metastasis. HIF activation occurs in the majority of human cancers, including the HER2 overexpressing cancer cells. Previous reports suggested that increased PI-3K/Akt may activate HIF pathway in various tumors, but the detail mechanism is still not completely understood. Here we found that HER2/PI-3K/Akt pathway induces HIF-1α activation, which is independent of hypoxia, but relatively weaker than hypoxic stimulation. This phenomenon was further observed in Akt knock out mouse embryonic fibroblast cells. The PI-3K/Akt pathway does not affect HIF-1α binding with its E3 ligase VHL, but enhances the binding affinity between HIF-1α and β unit. Furthermore, we found Akt phosphorylates HIF-1β at serine 271 and further regulated HIF transcriptional activity. Our findings provided one mechanism that HER2 induce HIF activation via Akt to promote angiogenesis, and this process is independent on hypoxia, which may have implications in the oncogenic activity of HER2 and PI-3K/Akt pathway.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Molecular biology|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Li, Yan, "Receptor tyrosine kinase HER2-mediated signaling pathways in metastasis and angiogenesis" (2004). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3115910.