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Oncogene. 2001 Feb 15;20(7):788-99.

Distinct tyrosine autophosphorylation sites mediate induction of epithelial mesenchymal like transition by an activated ErbB-2/Neu receptor.

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Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Oncology Group, McGill University Hospital Centre, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1A1, Canada.


Tight control of cell proliferation and morphogenesis is required to ensure normal tissue patterning and prevent cancer formation. Overexpression of the ErbB-2/Neu receptor tyrosine kinase is associated with increased progression in human breast cancer, yet in breast explant cultures, the ErbB-2/Neu receptor contributes to alveolar differentiation. To examine the consequence of deregulated ErbB-2/Neu activation on epithelial morphogenesis, we have expressed a constitutively activated mutant of ErbB-2/Neu in a Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) epithelial cell model. Using two-dimensional cultures we demonstrate that activated ErbB-2/Neu induces breakdown of cell-cell junctions, increased cell motility and dispersal of epithelial colonies. This correlates with reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesions and loss of insoluble cell-cell junction complexes involving E-cadherin. Interestingly, a constitutively activated ErbB-2/Neu receptor promotes an invasive morphogenic program in MDCK cells in a three-dimensional matrix. We show that two tyrosines in the carboxy-terminal tail of ErbB-2/Neu, involved in the phosphorylation of the Shc adapter protein, are each sufficient to promote epithelial-mesenchymal like transition and enhanced cell motility in two-dimensional culture and cell invasion rather than a morphogenic response in matrix culture. This provides a model system to investigate ErbB-2/Neu induced signaling pathways required for epithelial cell dispersal and invasion versus morphogenesis.

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