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Oncogene. 1996 Jun 20;12(12):2535-47.

Neu differentiation factor (Heregulin) activates a p53-dependent pathway in cancer cells.

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Advanced Cellular Diagnostics, Inc., Elmhurst, IL 60126, USA.


Previously we reported that neu differentiation factor (NDF)/heregulin (HRG) elevates tyrosine phosphorylation of its receptors erbB-3, erbB-4, and erbB-2 (through heterodimer formation). We also showed that both NDF/HRG and antibodies to erbB-2 can arrest growth and induce differentiation in breast cancer cells. In this study, we report on the mechanism of NDF/HRG-induced cellular effects. We show that NDF/HRG and antibodies to erbB-2 receptors up-regulate expression of p53 by stabilizing the protein. This is accompanied by up-regulation of the p53 inducible gene, p21CIP1/WAF1, in a variety of cell lines: MCF7 and their derivatives (MCF7/HER2, MN1 and MCF-7-puro), ZR75T and LnCap cells. The induction of p21 is further enhanced when cells are treated with both NDF/HRG and DNA-damaging chemotherapeutic agents (i.e. doxorubicin). The NDF/HRG mediated induction of p21 is dependent on wildtype p53, as it fails to occur in cells expressing dominant negative p53 (MDD2). Furthermore, p21 induction is capable of inactivating cdk2 complexes as measured by Histone H1 phosphorylation assays. Finally, we show that in primary cultures of breast and other cancers, p21 is significantly induced in response to NDF/HRG treatment. Collectively, these observations suggest that the mechanism of breast cancer cell growth inhibition and differentiation via erbB receptors activation is through a p53-mediated pathway.

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