Differential endocytic routing of homo- and hetero-dimeric ErbB tyrosine kinases confers signaling superiority to receptor heterodimers

Anne E.G. Lenferink, Ronit Pinkas-Kramarski, Monique L.M. Van De Poll, Marianne J.H. Van Vugt, Leah N. Klapper, Eldad Tzahar, Hadassa Waterman, Michael Sela, Everardus J.J. Van Zoelen, Yosef Yarden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both homo- and hetero-dimers of ErbB receptor tyrosine kinases mediate signaling by a large group of epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like ligands. However, some ligands are more potent than others, although they bind to the same direct receptor. In addition, signaling by receptor heterodimers is superior to homodimers, We addressed the mechanism underlying these two features of signal tuning by using three ligands: EGF; transforming growth factor α (TGFα); and their chimera, denoted E4T, which act on cells singly expressing ErbB-1 as a weak, a strong, and a very strong agonist, respectively. Co-expression of ErbB-2, a developmentally important co-receptor whose expression is frequently elevated in human cancers, specifically potentiated EGF signaling to the level achieved by TGFα, an effect that was partially mimicked by ErbB-3. Analysis of the mechanism underlying this trans-potentiation implied that EGF-driven homodimers of ErbB-1 are destined for intracellular degradation, whereas the corresponding heterodimers with ErbB-2 or with ErbB-3, dissociate in the early endosome. As a consequence, in the presence of either co-receptor, ErbB-1 is recycled to the cell surface and its signaling is enhanced. This latter route is followed by TGFα-driven homodimers of ErbB-1, and also by E4T-bound receptors, whose signaling is further enhanced by repeated cycles of binding and dissociation from the receptors. We conclude that alternative endocytic routes of homo- and hetero-dimeric receptor complexes may contribute to tuning and diversification of signal transduction. In addition, the ability of ErbB-2 to shunt ligand-activated receptors to recycling may explain, in part, its oncogenic potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3385-3397
Number of pages13
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 Jun 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Endocytosis
  • ErbB
  • HER family
  • Oncogene
  • Signal transduction
  • Transforming growth factor α


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