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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Mar 8;102(10):3788-93. Epub 2005 Feb 24.

ErbB-3 mediates phosphoinositide 3-kinase activity in gefitinib-sensitive non-small cell lung cancer cell lines.

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Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Therapies that target the EGF receptor (EGFR), such as gefitinib (IRESSA), are effective in a subset of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The differences in intracellular signaling networks between gefitinib-sensitive and -resistant NSCLCs remain poorly understood. In this study, we observe that gefitinib reduces phospho-Akt levels only in NSCLC cell lines in which it inhibits growth. To elucidate the mechanism underlying this observation, we compared immunoprecipitates of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) between gefitinib-sensitive and -resistant NSCLC cell lines. We observe that PI3K associates with ErbB-3 exclusively in gefitinib-sensitive NSCLC cell lines. Gefitinib dissociates this complex, thereby linking EGFR inhibition to decreased Akt activity. In contrast, gefitinib-resistant cells do not use ErbB-3 to activate the PI3K/Akt pathway. In fact, abundant ErbB-3 expression is detected only in gefitinib-sensitive NSCLC cell lines. Two gefitinib-sensitive NSCLC cell lines with endogenous distinct activating EGFR mutations (L858R and Del747-749), frequently observed in NSCLC patients who respond to gefitinib, also use ErbB-3 to couple to PI3K. Down-regulation of ErbB-3 by means of short hairpin RNA leads to decreased phospho-Akt levels in the gefitinib-sensitive NSCLC cell lines, Calu-3 (WT EGFR) and H3255 (L858R EGFR), but has no effect on Akt activation in the gefitinib-resistant cell lines, A549 and H522. We conclude that ErbB-3 is used to couple EGFR to the PI3K/Akt pathway in gefitinib-sensitive NSCLC cell lines harboring WT and mutant EGFRs.

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