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Oncogene. 1999 Apr 22;18(16):2607-15.

Characterization of a naturally occurring ErbB4 isoform that does not bind or activate phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase.

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Department of Surgery, Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Receptor tyrosine kinases regulate cell behavior by activating specific signal transduction cascades. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor tyrosine kinases include ErbB1, ErbB2, ErbB3 and ErbB4. ErbB4 is a tyrosine kinase receptor that binds neuregulins (NRG) and several other EGF family members. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis identified two isoforms of ErbB4 that differed in their cytoplasmic domain sequences. Specifically, RT-PCR using primers flanking the putative phosphatidyl inositol 3-kinase (PI3-K) binding site of ErbB4 generated two specific bands when human and mouse heart and kidney tissues were analysed. Cloning and sequencing of these RT-PCR products revealed that one of the ErbB4 isoforms (ErbB4 CYT-2) lacked a 16 amino acid sequence including a putative PI3-K binding site, that was present in the other isoform (ErbB4 CYT-1). RT-PCR analysis of mouse tissues suggested that the expression of ErbB4 CYT-1 and ErbB4 CYT-2 was tissue-specific. Heart, breast and abdominal aorta expressed predominantly ErbB4 CYT-1 whereas neural tissues and kidney expressed predominantly ErbB4 CYT-2. To ascertain whether the absence of the putative PI3-K binding site in ErbB4 CYT-2 also resulted in the loss of PI3-K activity, NIH3T3 cell lines overexpressing ErbB4 CYT-1 or ErbB4 CYT-2 were produced. NRG-1 bound to and stimulated equivalent tyrosine phosphorylation of both isoforms. However, unlike ErbB4 CYT-1, the ErbB4 CYT-2 isoform was unable to bind the p85 subunit of PI3-K and to stimulate PI3-K activity in these cells. Furthermore, tyrosine phosphorylation of p85 or association of PI3-K activity with phosphotyrosine was not induced in NRG-1 treated cells expressing ErbB4 CYT-2, indicating that this isoform was incapable of activating PI3-K even indirectly. It was concluded that a novel naturally occurring ErbB4 isoform exists with a deletion of the cytoplasmic domain sequence required for the activation of the PI3-K intracellular signal transduction pathway and that this is the only PI3-K binding site in ErbB4.

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