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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Jan 27;101(4):923-8. Epub 2004 Jan 19.

The tethered configuration of the EGF receptor extracellular domain exerts only a limited control of receptor function.

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Department of Pharmacology, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Quantitative epidermal growth factor (EGF)-binding experiments have shown that the EGF-receptor (EGFR) is displayed on the surface of intact cells in two forms, a minority of high-affinity and a majority of low-affinity EGFRs. On the basis of the three-dimensional structure of the extracellular ligand binding domain of the EGFR, it was proposed that the intramolecularly tethered and autoinhibited configuration corresponds to the low-affinity receptor, whereas the extended configuration accounts for the high-affinity EGFRs on intact cells. Here we test this model by analyzing the properties of EGFRs mutated in the specific regions responsible for receptor autoinhibition and dimerization, respectively. Our results show that mutagenic disruption of the autoinhibitory tether in EGFR results in a decrease in the dissociation rate of EGF without a detectable change in EGFR activation and signaling through EGFR even in response to stimulation with low concentrations of EGF. Mutagenic disruption of the dimerization arm, on the other hand, increased the rate of EGF dissociation and impaired EGFR activation and signaling via the EGFR. This study demonstrates that the extended configuration of EGFR does not account for the apparent high-affinity EGF-binding to EGFR on intact cells. Furthermore, the autoinhibition conferred by the tethered configuration of the extracellular ligand-binding domain provides only a limited control of EGFR function.

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