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J Clin Invest. 2012 Apr;122(4):1296-305. doi: 10.1172/JCI60568. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

ErbB-2 signals through Plexin-B1 to promote breast cancer metastasis.

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Max-Planck-Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Department of Pharmacology, Bad Nauheim, Germany.


Diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer is associated with a very poor prognosis. New therapeutic targets are urgently needed, but their development is hampered by a lack of understanding of the mechanisms leading to tumor metastasis. Exemplifying this is the fact that the approximately 30% of all breast cancers overexpressing the receptor tyrosine kinase ErbB-2 are characterized by high metastatic potential and poor prognosis, but the signaling events downstream of ErbB-2 that drive cancer cell invasion and metastasis remain incompletely understood. Here we show that overexpression of ErbB-2 in human breast cancer cell lines leads to phosphorylation and activation of the semaphorin receptor Plexin-B1. This was required for ErbB-2-dependent activation of the pro-metastatic small GTPases RhoA and RhoC and promoted invasive behavior of human breast cancer cells. In a mouse model of ErbB-2-overexpressing breast cancer, ablation of the gene encoding Plexin-B1 strongly reduced the occurrence of metastases. Moreover, in human patients with ErbB-2-overexpressing breast cancer, low levels of Plexin-B1 expression correlated with good prognosis. Our data suggest that Plexin-B1 represents a new candidate therapeutic target for treating patients with ErbB-2-positive breast cancer.

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