Cisplatin and its analogues are the most commonly used agents in the treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. In this study, we investigated a possible role of epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR) phosphorylation and degradation in cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity. Cisplatin treatment led to an increase in initial EGFR phosphorylation at Y1045, the binding site of ubiquitin ligase, Casitas B-lineage lymphoma (c-Cbl), followed by ubiquitination in the relatively cisplatin-sensitive cell lines. However, cisplatin-resistant cell lines underwent minimal EGFR phosphorylation at the Y1045 site and minimal ubiquitination. We found that EGFR degradation in response to cisplatin was highly correlated with cytotoxicity in seven head and neck cancer cell lines. Pretreatment with EGF enhanced cisplatin-induced EGFR degradation and cytotoxicity, whereas erlotinib pretreatment blocked EGFR phosphorylation, degradation, and cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity. Expression of a mutant Y1045F EGFR, which is relatively resistant to c-Cbl-mediated degradation, in Chinese hamster ovary cells and the UMSCC11B human head and neck cancer cell line protected EGFR from cisplatin-induced degradation and enhanced cell survival compared with wild-type (WT) EGFR. Transfection of WT c-Cbl enhanced EGFR degradation and cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity compared with control vector. These results show that cisplatin-induced EGFR phosphorylation and subsequent ubiquitination and degradation is an important determinant of cisplatin sensitivity. Our findings suggest that treatment with an EGFR inhibitor before cisplatin would be antagonistic, as EGFR inhibition would protect EGFR from cisplatin-mediated phosphorylation and subsequent ubiquitination and degradation, which may explain the negative results of several recent clinical trials. Furthermore, they suggest that EGFR degradation is worth exploring as an early biomarker of response and as a target to improve outcome.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research