EphA2 expression is regulated by EGFR and KRAS and promotes non-small cell lung cancer progression

Jennifer Mary Brannan, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. The development of improved systemic therapy is needed for the most common form of the disease, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This will depend on the identification of valid molecular targets. Recent studies point to the receptor tyrosine kinase EphA2 as a novel therapeutic target. Overexpression of EphA2 has been demonstrated in a number of epithelial cancers, and its expression has been associated with more severe disease. Regulation of EphA2 in cancer is poorly understood. Recently, regulation of EphA2 by EGFR and KRAS has been reported in a number of in vitro models, but no examination of this relationship has been undertaken in patient tumors. Because of the established importance of EGFR and KRAS in NSCLC, we have investigated the relationship between these mutations and EphA2 in NSCLC patient tissues and cell lines. The significance of Epha2 expression was further examined by testing for correlation with survival, metastases, histology, and smoking status in patient tissues, and tumor cell proliferation and migration in vitro. EphA2 expression was analyzed in by immunohistochemistry in tissue microarray (TMA) format utilizing surgically resected lung cancer specimens. EGFR and KRAS mutation status was determined for the majority of specimens. EphA2 expression was detected in >90% of NSCLC tumors. High EphA2 expression was associated with decreased time to recurrence and metastases, and predicted poorer progression free and overall survival. Expression of EphA2 was positively correlated with activated EGFR and with KRAS mutation. Expression of EphA2 was also positively correlated with a history of smoking. There was no association between gender or histology and EphA2 expression. In H322 cells, activation of EGFR or KRAS resulted in an increase in EphA2 protein expression. Downregulation of EphA2 resulted in decreased proliferation in a clonal growth assay, and inhibited migration in a wound healing assay, in a panel of cell lines. The decrease in proliferation correlated with a transient decrease in the levels of phospho-ERK, a downstream effector of EGFR and KRAS. Based on these data, the potential of EphA2 as a therapeutic target for NSCLC should be further investigated.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Brannan, Jennifer Mary, "EphA2 expression is regulated by EGFR and KRAS and promotes non-small cell lung cancer progression" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3343813.