Constitutive activation of epidermal growth factor receptor promotes tumorigenesis of Cr(VI)-transformed cells through decreased reactive oxygen species and apoptosis resistance development [Cell Biology]

December 4th, 2014 by Kim, D., Dai, J., Yenwong Fai, L., Yao, H., Son, Y.-O., Wang, L., Pratheeshkumar, P., Kondo, K., Shi, X., Zhang, Z.

Hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) compounds are well-established lung carcinogens. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a tyrosine kinase transmembrane receptor that regulates cell survival, tumor invasion, and angiogenesis. Our results show that chronic exposure of human bronchial epithelial (BEAS-2B) cells to Cr(VI) was able to cause malignant cell transformation. These transformed cells exhibited apoptosis resistance with reduced poly ADP ribose polymerase cleavage (C-PARP) and Bax expression and enhanced expressions of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL. These transformed cells also exhibited reduced capacity of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation along with elevated expression of antioxidant manganese superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2). EGFR was activated in Cr(VI)-transformed BEAS-2B cells, lung tissue of animals exposed to Cr(VI) particles, and lung tumor tissue of a worker exposed to Cr(VI) for 19 years. Further study indicates that constitutive activation of EGFR in Cr(VI)-transformed cells was due to increased binding to its ligand amphiregulin (AREG). Inhibition of EGFR or AREG increased Bax expression and reduced Bcl-2 expression, resulting in reduced apoptosis resistance. Furthermore, inhibition of AREG or EGFR restored capacity of ROS generation and decreased SOD2 expression. PI3K/AKT was activated, which depended on EGFR in Cr(VI)-transformed BEAS-2B cells. Inhibition of PI3K/AKT increased ROS generation and reduced SOD2 expression, resulting in reduced apoptosis resistance with commitment increase in Bax expression and reduction of Bcl-2 expression. Xenograft mouse tumor study further demonstrates the essential role of EGFR in tumorigenesis of Cr(VI)-transformed cells. In summary, the present study suggests that ligand-dependent constitutive activation of EGFR causes reduced ROS generation and increased antioxidant expression, leading to development of apoptosis resistance, contributing to Cr(VI)-induced tumorigenesis.
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