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Cancer Res. 2007 Jul 1;67(13):6121-9.

EGFR activation results in enhanced cyclooxygenase-2 expression through p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent activation of the Sp1/Sp3 transcription factors in human gliomas.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


Expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) has been linked to many cancers and may contribute to malignant phenotypes, including enhanced proliferation, angiogenesis, and resistance to cytotoxic therapies. Malignant gliomas are highly aggressive brain tumors that display many of these characteristics. One prominent molecular abnormality discovered in these astrocytic brain tumors is alteration of epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR) through gene amplification and/or mutation resulting in excessive signaling from this receptor. We found that EGF-mediated stimulation of EGFR tyrosine kinase in human glioma cell lines induces expression of both COX-2 mRNA and protein. The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38-MAPK) pathway was a strong downstream factor in this activation with inhibition of this pathway leading to strong suppression of COX-2 induction. The p38-MAPK pathway can activate the Sp1/Sp3 transcription factors and this seems necessary for EGFR-dependent transactivation of the COX-2 promoter. Analysis of COX-2 promoter/luciferase constructs revealed that transcriptional activation of the COX-2 promoter by EGFR requires the Sp1 binding site located at -245/-240. Furthermore, Sp1/Sp3 binding to this site in the promoter is enhanced by EGFR activation both in vitro and in vivo. Enhanced DNA binding by Sp1/Sp3 requires p38-MAPK activity and correlates with increased phosphorylation of the Sp1 transcription factor. Thus, EGFR activation in malignant gliomas can transcriptionally activate COX-2 expression in a process that requires p38-MAPK and Sp1/Sp3. Finally, treatment of glioma cell lines with prostaglandin E2, the predominant product of COX-2 activity, results in increased vascular endothelial growth factor expression, thus potentially linking elevations in COX-2 expression with tumor angiogenesis in malignant gliomas.

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