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Cancer Res. 2000 Oct 15;60(20):5879-86.

Epidermal growth factor receptor transcriptionally up-regulates vascular endothelial growth factor expression in human glioblastoma cells via a pathway involving phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase and distinct from that induced by hypoxia.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia 19004, USA.


Glioblastomas are highly vascular malignant brain tumors that often overexpress vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). They also frequently overexpress epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and contain regions of hypoxia, both conditions that can induce VEGF. We examined VEGF regulation in U87 MG human glioblastoma cells and in U87/T691 cells, a clonal derivative that contains a truncated erbB2/Neu receptor that interferes with EGFR signaling through the formation of nonfunctional heterodimeric receptor complexes. U87/T691 cells contained approximately one-half as much VEGF mRNA as did U87 MG cells under normoxic conditions (21% oxygen). Pharmacological inhibition of EGFR, Ras, or PI(3) kinase, but not MAP kinase, led to a significant decrease in VEGF mRNA levels in U87 MG cells. VEGF promoter activity in transient transfections was decreased by either pharmacological or genetic inhibition of EGFR, Ras, or phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase [PI(3) kinase]. However, inhibition of PI(3) kinase or EGFR did not completely abolish induction of VEGF mRNA by hypoxia (0.2% oxygen). Likewise, VEGF mRNA expression was induced 3-fold by hypoxia in EGFR-inhibited U87/T691 cells, comparable with the fold induction seen in parental U87 MG cells, although the absolute level of message under hypoxia was higher in U87 MG cells. In transient transfections, a luciferase reporter construct containing a 1.2-kb fragment of the VEGF promoter, lacking the known hypoxic-responsive element (HRE), showed up-regulation after EGF stimulation to the same degree as the full-length, 1.5-kb VEGF promoter construct retaining the HRE. Furthermore, activity of the HRE-deleted, 1.2-kb promoter luciferase reporter was down-regulated by PI(3) kinase inhibition. Therefore, in glioblastoma cells, transcriptional regulation of the VEGF promoter by EGFR appears to involve Ras/PI(3) kinase and to be distinct from signals induced by hypoxia.

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