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Activation of epidermal growth factor receptor signaling by the prostaglandin E2 receptor EP4 pathway during gastric tumorigenesis


To whom correspondence should be addressed.
E-mail: oshimam@kenroku.kanazawa-u.ac.jp


Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) plays an important role in tumorigenesis through prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) biosynthesis. It has been shown by in vitro studies that PGE2 signaling transactivates epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) through an intracellular mechanism. However, the mechanisms underlying PGE2-induced EGFR activation in in vivo tumors are still not fully understood. We previously constructed transgenic mice that develop gastric tumors caused by oncogenic activation and PGE2 pathway induction. Importantly, expression of EGFR ligands, epiregulin, amphiregulin, heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor, and betacellulin, as well as a disintegrin and metalloproteinases (ADAMs), ADAM8, ADAM9, ADAM10, and ADAM17 were significantly increased in the mouse gastric tumors in a PGE2 pathway-dependent manner. These ADAMs can activate EGFR by ectodomain shedding of EGFR ligands. Notably, the extensive induction of EGFR ligands and ADAMs was suppressed by inhibition of the PGE2 receptor EP4. Moreover, EP4 signaling induced expression of amphiregulin and epiregulin in activated macrophages, whereas EP4 pathway was required for basal expression of epiregulin in gastric epithelial cells. In contrast, ADAMs were not induced directly by PGE2 in these cells, suggesting indirect mechanism possibly through PGE2-associated inflammatory responses. These results suggest that PGE2 signaling through EP4 activates EGFR in gastric tumors through global induction of EGFR ligands and ADAMs in several cell types either by direct or indirect mechanism. Importantly, gastric tumorigenesis of the transgenic mice was significantly suppressed by combination treatment with EGFR and COX-2 inhibitors. Therefore, it is possible that inhibition of both COX-2/PGE2 and EGFR pathways represents an effective strategy for preventing gastric cancer. (Cancer Sci 2011; 102: 713–719)