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EGFR and ErbB2 are two members of the ErbB family of receptor Tyr Kinases identified as therapeutic targets for treating carcinomas. Breast carcinoma cells express different complements and variable proportions of ErbB receptor Tyr kinases, which activate unique and redundant signaling cascades that are essential for cell survival. Previously it was shown that a COOH-terminal truncation mutant of the EGFR (EGFR-CD533) blocks EGFR dependent signals and radiosensitizes breast carcinoma cells. In this study the effects of EGFR-CD533 and an analogous truncation mutant of ErbB2 (ErbB2-CD572) on ErbB receptor family dimerization and signaling are further investigated. Using adenoviral vectors in breast carcinoma cell lines with variable ErbB expression profiles, we demonstrate different effects for each deletion mutant. EGFR-CD533 blocks ligand stimulation of EGFR, ErbB2, and ErbB4, but is associated with a compensatory Tyr kinase activity resulting in phosphorylation of ErbB3. In contrast, ErbB2-CD572 produces a weaker, non-specific pattern of ErbB receptor family inhibition, based upon the ErbB expression pattern of the cell type. Investigation of the compensatory Tyr kinase activity associated with EGFR-CD533 expression identified an ErbB3/c-Src signaling pathway that regulates expression of anti-apoptotic Bcl family proteins. This signaling is active in the T47D cell line, which inherently over-express ErbB3, absent in MDA-MB231 cells, which have low ErbB3 expression levels, and is restored in a MDA-MB231 cell line engineered to over-express ErbB3. Furthermore we demonstrate that ErbB3/c-Src signaling is radio-protective, and that its elimination through pharmacologic inhibition of c-Src enhances radiation-induced apoptosis. In summary, these studies identify a novel ErbB3/c-Src survival signal and point to ErbB3 expression levels as an important variable in therapeutic targeting of ErbB receptors in breast carcinoma cells.