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Clin Exp Metastasis. 1999;17(7):631-9.

Differential modulation of proliferation, matrix metalloproteinase expression and invasion of human head and neck squamous carcinoma cells by c-erbB ligands.

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Department of Head and Neck Surgery, Royal Marsden Hospital, London, UK.


Evidence suggests that there is an association between the abnormal expression of members of the c-erbB receptor tyrosine kinase family and poor prognosis in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). Until now, the relative contributions of different c-erbB ligands to HNSCC progression have not been clearly defined. In this paper we examined the effects of ligands with different c-erbB receptor specificities in terms of their stimulation of HNSCC proliferation, expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and invasion. Heregulin-beta1 (HRG-beta1; selective c-erbB3/B4 ligand) was found to stimulate proliferation in the majority of cell lines, whereas epidermal growth factor (EGF; EGFR ligand) and betacellulin (BTC; EGFR/B4 ligand) induced variable responses. All three ligands up-regulated multiple MMPs including collagenases, stromelysins, matrilysin and gelatinase B (MMP-9) but had minimal or no effects on gelatinase A (MMP-2), MT1-MMP and tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs). MMP-9 mRNA was induced to a higher level than other MMPs, although with slower kinetics. HRG-beta1 was less active than EGF and BTC at the optimal concentration (relative potency of EGF:BTC:HRG = 3:4:1). In vitro invasion through Matrigel was also increased by all three ligands in proportion to their MMP up-regulation. A specific anti-EGFR monoclonal antibody (mAb ICR62) inhibited MMP up-regulation, migration and invasion induced by all three ligands, whereas an anti-c-erbB-2 mAb ICR12 inhibited mitogenic and motogenic responses following ligand stimulation but had no effect on MMP expression. These results suggest that c-erbB ligands may differentially potentiate the invasive phenotype of HNSCC via co-operative induction of cell proliferation, migration and proteolysis. The EGFR signalling pathway appears to be the dominant component controlling the proteolytic and invasive phenotype in HNSCC, whereas the c-erbB-2 signalling pathway is responsible, in part, for the mitogenic and motogenic effects of ligands.

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