ReviewCell Biology

Sequestration and Segregation of Receptor Kinases in Epithelial Cells: Implications for ErbB2 Oncogenesis

Science's STKE  10 Apr 2007:
Vol. 2007, Issue 381, pp. re3
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3812007re3

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Cell behaviors are regulated by signaling pathways triggered by the activation of cell surface receptors. A key aspect of receptor signaling is the location of these receptors relative to their ligands and to other receptors, particularly in epithelia, whose cells are polarized by tight junction barriers into apical and basolateral membrane regions. In polarized epithelia, the co-receptor ErbB2 is often localized to the apical surface by its intramembrane ligand Muc4, thus segregating it from its partner ErbB3, which is sequestered at the lateral surface, co-localized with cadherin junctions. The ErbB2-ErbB3 receptor heterodimer, when activated, is a potent stimulator of cell proliferation; thus, the segregation mechanism helps maintain these cells in a differentiated state. Similarly, epidermal growth factor, the ligand for ErbB1, which is present in the apical fluid of some epithelia, is segregated from its receptor by the tight junction barrier. Loss of cell polarity and the tight junction barrier facilitates the interaction of ErbB2 with the hemidesmosome integrin α6β4. This integrin acts as a docking site for signaling pathways to promote cell proliferation and further disruption of cell junctions. The ultimate dissolution of tight junctions may result from activation of transforming growth factor–β receptors, one subunit of which is directly associated with the junction. This activation triggers degradation of critical tight junction components. These sequestration and segregation phenomena provide a model by which overexpression of the ErbB2 receptor kinase may trigger oncogenesis by initiating junction breakdown. Equally important, these mechanisms may act as a sensor for epithelial damage that can activate repair mechanisms.

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