Amphiregulin-EGFR signaling regulates PTHrP gene expression in breast cancer cells

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Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) is an autocrine/paracrine factor produced by breast cancer cells that is speculated to play a major role in permitting breast cancer cells to grow into the bone microenvironment by stimulating the bone resorption axis. It has been previously shown that EGFR signaling induces the production of PTHrP in several primary and transformed epithelial cell types. Therefore, we investigated the relationship between EGFR and PTHrP gene expression in human breast cancer cells. Of a panel of 7 breast epithelial and cancer cell lines, the osteolytic, EGFR-positive lines (MDA-MB-231 and NS2T2A1) exhibited higher levels of PTHrP transcript expression. Amphiregulin mRNA levels in all lines were approximately 2 orders of magnitude higher than those of TGFα or HBEGF. In the EGFR bearing lines, the receptor was phosphorylated at tyrosine 992 under basal conditions, and the addition of 100 nM amphiregulin did not lead to the phosphorylation of other tyrosine residues typically phosphorylated by the prototypical ligand EGF. Treatment of the EGFR positive lines with the EGFR inhibitor PD153035 and amphiregulin-neutralizing antibodies reduced PTHrP mRNA levels by 50-70%. Stable EGFR expression in the MCF7 line failed to increase basal PTHrP mRNA levels; however, treatment of this cell line with exogenous EGF or amphiregulin increased PTHrP transcription 3-fold. Transient transfection analysis suggests that the MAPK pathway and ETS transcription factors mediate EGFR coupling to PTHrP gene expression. Taken together, it appears that autocrine stimulation of EGFR signaling by amphiregulin is coupled to PTHrP gene expression via EGFR Tyr992 and MAPK, and that this pathway may contribute to PTHrP expression by breast tumor cells.

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