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Breast Cancer Res. 2011 Sep 22;13(5):R93. doi: 10.1186/bcr3018.

erbB3 recruitment of insulin receptor substrate 1 modulates insulin-like growth factor receptor signalling in oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cell lines.

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  • 1Welsh School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University, Redwood Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB, UK.



Recently we reported that insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1), classically an adaptor protein for the insulin-like growth factor type I receptor (IGF-IR), associates with the epidermal growth factor receptor in oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive (ER+) tamoxifen-resistant breast cancer cells. In this study, we examined whether IRS-1 also associates with another erbB receptor family member, erbB3, and what impact this might have on IGF-IR signalling in three ER+ breast cancer cell lines.


Immunoprecipitation and Western blot analysis were utilised to examine the potential association between erbB3 and IRS-1 in MCF-7, T47D and BT-474 cells in the absence and presence of the erbB3/4 ligand heregulin β1 (HRGβ1). Subsequently, the impact of a selective IGF-IR/IR inhibitor 4-anilino-5-bromo-2-[4-(2-hydroxy-3-(N, N-dimethylamino)propoxy)anilino]pyrimidine on this association and HRGβ1 signalling was assessed in these cell lines. Immunohistochemical analysis of a small cohort of ER+ breast cancer patient samples was also performed to determine the potential clinical relevance of this novel interaction.


Immunoprecipitation and Western blot analysis revealed an interaction between erbB3 and IRS-1 in MCF-7, T47D and BT-474 cells, with HRGβ1 significantly enhancing this recruitment and promoting IRS-1 phosphorylation at Y612. IRS-1 participates in erbB3 signalling in MCF-7 and T47D cells as IRS-1 knockdown impaired HRGβ1 signalling. Importantly, recruitment of IRS-1 by erbB3 reduced IRS-1 association with IGF-IR in MCF-7 and T47D cells, whilst blockade of IGF-IR-enhanced erbB3-IRS-1 interaction and sensitised both cell lines to HRGβ1, allowing HRGβ1 to override IGF-IR blockade. Consequently, suppression of IRS-1 signalling enhanced the effects of IGF-IR inhibition in these cells. This novel interaction may have clinical relevance, as immunohistochemical analysis of a small ER+ breast tumour series revealed significant positive correlations between phosphorylated IRS-1 Y612 expression and total erbB3, phosphorylated Akt and Ki-67 expression.


IRS-1 can be recruited to IGF-IR and erbB3 in ER+ breast cancer cells, and this provides an adaptive resistance mechanism when these receptors are targeted individually. Consequently, cotargeting IGF-IR and either erbB3 or IRS-1 should prove to be a more effective strategy for the treatment of ER+ breast cancer.

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