Early Response to ErbB2 Over-Expression in Polarized Caco-2 Cells Involves Partial Segregation From ErbB3 by Relocalization to the Apical Surface and Initiation of Survival Signaling

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In several human cancers, ErbB2 over-expression facilitates the formation of constitutively active homodimers resistant to internalization which results in progressive signal amplification from the receptor, conducive to cell survival, proliferation, or metastasis. Here we report on studies of the influence of ErbB2 over-expression on localization and signaling in polarized Caco-2 and MDCK cells, two established models to study molecular trafficking. In these cells, ErbB2 is not over-expressed and shares basolateral localization with ErbB3. Over-expression of ErbB2 by transient transfection resulted in partial separation of the receptors by relocalization of ErbB2, but not ErbB3, to the apical surface, as shown by biotinylation of the apical or basolateral surfaces. These results were confirmed by immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy. Polarity controls indicated that the relocalization of ErbB2 is not the result of depolarization of the cells. Biotinylation and confocal microscopy also showed that apical, but not basolateral ErbB2 is activated at tyrosine 1139. This phosphotyrosine binds adaptor protein Grb2, as confirmed by immunoprecipitation. However, we found that it does not initiate the canonical Grb2-Ras-Raf-Erk pathway. Instead, our data supports the activation of a survival pathway via Bcl-2. The effects of ErbB2 over-expression were abrogated by the humanized anti-ErbB2 monoclonal antibody Herceptin added only from the apical side. The ability of apical ErbB2 to initiate an altered downstream cascade suggests that subcellular localization of the receptor plays an important role in regulating ErbB2 signaling in polarized epithelia.