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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 13;101(15):5583-8. Epub 2004 Apr 5.

Interplay between EphB4 on tumor cells and vascular ephrin-B2 regulates tumor growth.

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  • 1The Burnham Institute, 10901 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Receptor tyrosine kinases of the Eph family are up-regulated in different types of cancer. EphB4 and its ligand ephrin-B2 have been linked to breast cancer, but little is known about how this receptor-ligand complex may contribute to oncogenesis. The Eph receptors transmit forward signals via their kinase domain and reverse signals via their transmembrane ephrin-B ligands. Therefore, we used EphB4 that were lacking the kinase domain and tagged with EGFP (EphB4 Delta C-EGFP) to differentiate between EphB4 and ephrin-B2 signaling. Interestingly, we found that expression of EphB4 Delta C-EGFP in breast cancer cells increases tumor growth in a mouse xenograft model. Given the undetectable EphB4 activation in the tumor cells, dominant negative effects of EphB4 Delta C-EGFP are unlikely to explain the increased tumor growth. Examination of the tumors revealed that ephrin-B2 is primarily expressed in the vasculature and that the EphB4 Delta C-EGFP tumors have a higher blood content than control tumors, concomitant with increased size of blood vessels. In support of an effect on the vasculature, the extracellular domain of EphB4 attracts endothelial cells in vitro and stimulates endothelial cell invasion, survival, and proliferation, all crucial factors for angiogenesis. These results support a model in which EphB4 promotes tumor growth by stimulating angiogenesis through ephrin-B2.

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