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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33846. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033846. Epub 2012 Mar 22.

MUC1 contributes to BPDE-induced human bronchial epithelial cell transformation through facilitating EGFR activation.

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  • 1Molecular Biology and Lung Cancer Program, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America.


Although it is well known that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is involved in lung cancer progression, whether EGFR contributes to lung epithelial cell transformation is less clear. Mucin 1 (MUC1 in human and Muc1 in animals), a glycoprotein component of airway mucus, is overexpressed in lung tumors; however, its role and underlying mechanisms in early stage lung carcinogenesis is still elusive. This study provides strong evidence demonstrating that EGFR and MUC1 are involved in bronchial epithelial cell transformation. Knockdown of MUC1 expression significantly reduced transformation of immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells induced by benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE), the active form of the cigarette smoke (CS) carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene (BaP)s. BPDE exposure robustly activated a pathway consisting of EGFR, Akt and ERK, and blocking this pathway significantly increased BPDE-induced cell death and inhibited cell transformation. Suppression of MUC1 expression resulted in EGFR destabilization and inhibition of the BPDE-induced activation of Akt and ERK and increase of cytotoxicity. These results strongly suggest an important role for EGFR in BPDE-induced transformation, and substantiate that MUC1 is involved in lung cancer development, at least partly through mediating carcinogen-induced activation of the EGFR-mediated cell survival pathway that facilitates cell transformation.

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