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J Biol Chem. 2010 Mar 5;285(10):7035-44. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.096032. Epub 2009 Dec 18.

Her4 and Her2/neu tyrosine kinase domains dimerize and activate in a reconstituted in vitro system.

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Division of Oncology, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Her4 (ErbB-4) and Her2/neu (ErbB-2) are receptor-tyrosine kinases belonging to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family. Crystal structures of EGFR and Her4 kinase domains demonstrate kinase dimerization and activation through an allosteric mechanism. The kinase domains form an asymmetric dimer, where the C-lobe surface of one monomer contacts the N-lobe of the other monomer. EGFR kinase dimerization and activation in vitro was previously reported using a nickel-chelating lipid-liposome system, and we now apply this system to all other members of the EGFR family. Polyhistidine-tagged Her4, Her2/neu, and Her3 kinase domains are bound to these nickel-liposomes and are brought to high local concentration, mimicking what happens to full-length receptors in vivo following ligand binding. Addition of nickel-liposomes to Her4 kinase domain results in 40-fold activation in kinase activity and marked enhancement of C-terminal tail autophosphorylation. Activation of Her4 shows a sigmoidal dependence on kinase concentration, consistent with a cooperative process requiring kinase dimerization. Her2/neu kinase activity is also activated by nickel-liposomes, and is increased further by heterodimerization with Her3 or Her4. The ability of Her3 and Her4 to heterodimerize and activate other family members is studied in vitro. Her3 kinase domain readily activates Her2/neu but is a poor activator of Her4, which differs from the prediction made by the asymmetric dimer model. Mutation of Her3 residues (952)ENI(954) to the corresponding sequence in Her4 enhanced the ability of Her3 to activate Her4, demonstrating that sequence differences on the C-lobe surface influence the heterodimerization and activation of ErbB kinase domains.

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