Demonstration by Two-Color Flow Cytometry That Tyrosine Kinase Activity Is Required for Down-Modulation of the Oncogenic neu Receptor

Valerie Brown, Neelima Shah, Robert Smith, Maria Hellman, Leonard Jarett, Yasunori Mikami, Erik Cohen, Xiaolan Qian, Mark I. Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Expression of rat oncogenic neu receptor, p185T-neu (a growth factor receptor with constitutive tyrosine kinase activity), causes cells to become transformed. Treatment with anti-neu receptor monoclonal antibodies reverts the transformed phenotype by down-modulation of p185T-neu. Monoclonal antibody treatment of cells expressing normal neu receptor, p185C-neu (which lacks constitutive tyrosine kinase activity), does not result in down-modulation of p185C-neu. To understand further the role the biochemical activity of p185T-neu plays in transformation and endocytosis, we created a series of mutations in p185T-neu. We found that fibroblasts expressing the tyrosine kinase-defective mutants cannot form foci in culture, colonies in soft agar, or tumors in immunocompromised mice. To follow the antibody-induced endocytosis of neu receptors expressed in these transfectants, we developed a novel two-color flow cytometric assay and confirmed receptor localization by electron microscopy. Cells were treated with mAb7.16.4 over time. After 4 hr of antibody treatment, less than 50% of full-length p185T-neu and of mutant T691 remained on the cell surface, whereas internal expression of the neu receptors within these cells initially increased and then decreased to the original internal receptor level. In contrast, the level of kinase-deficient mutated neu receptors remaining on the cell surface initially decreased by 35%, but, after 4 hr of antibody treatment, the cell surface expression level returned to approximately the original level. Concurrently, fluctuations in expression levels were seen internally over time as well. These cell lines were also treated with gold-conjugated mAb7.16.4. Using electron microscopy, we consistently found the gold particles within multivesicular bodies of cell lines expressing full-length or mutated neu receptor. These data strongly suggest that the fate of the neu receptor, once internalized, is directed by its tyrosine kinase activity. When the kinase activity of the neu receptor is disrupted, the receptor is internalized but recycled to the cell surface, whereas neu receptors which have constitutive kinase activity are internalized and presumably degraded when engaged with anti-neu receptor mAb. Understanding the regulation of receptor endocytosis, degradation, and recycling will contribute to the development of novel therapeutic protocols to combat human malignancies, particularly those associated with the overexpression of the human homologue of the neu receptor, c-erbB2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-209
Number of pages17
JournalDNA and Cell Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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