Coregulation of estrogen receptor by ERBB4/HER4 establishes a growth-promoting autocrine signal in breast tumor cells

Yun Zhu, Lacey L. Sullivan, Sujit S. Nair, Christopher C. Williams, Arvind K. Pandey, Luis Marrero, Ratna K. Vadlamudi, Frank E. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Although crosstalk between cell-surface and nuclear receptor signaling pathways has been implicated in the development and progression of endocrine-regulated cancers, evidence of direct coupling of these signaling pathways has remained elusive. Here we show that estrogen promotes an association between extranuclear estrogen receptor α. (ER) and the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) family member ERBB4. Ectopically expressed as well as endogenous ERBB4 interacts with and potentiates ER transactivation, indicating that the ERBB4/ER interaction is functional. Estrogen induces nuclear translocation of the proteolytic processed ERBB4 intracellular domain (4ICD) and nuclear translocation of 4ICD requires functional ligand-bound ER. The nuclear ER/4ICD complex is selectively recruited to estrogen-inducible gene promoters such as progesterone receptor (PgR) and stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) but not to trefoil factor 1 precursor (pS2). Consistent with 4ICD-selective promoter binding, suppression of ERBB4 expression by interfering RNA shows that 4ICD coactivates ER transcription at the PgR and SDF-1 but not the pS2 promoter. Significantly, ERBB4 itself is an estrogen-inducible gene and the ERBB4 promoter harbors a consensus estrogen response element (ERE) half-site with overlapping activator protein-1 elements that bind ER and 4ICD in response to estrogen. Using a cell proliferation assay and a small interfering RNA approach, we show that ERBB4 expression is required for the growth-promoting action of estrogen in the T47D breast cancer cell line. Our results indicate that ERBB4 is a unique coregulator of ER, directly coupling extranuclear and nuclear estrogen actions in breast cancer. We propose that the contribution of an autocrine ERBB4/ER signaling pathway to tumor growth and therapeutic response should be considered when managing patients with ER-positive breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7991-7998
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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