Role of EGF receptor ligands in TCDD-induced EGFR down-regulation and cellular proliferation


In cultures of normal human epidermal keratinocytes (NHEKs), 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) induces the expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor ligands transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) and epiregulin (EREG). TCDD also down-regulates EGF receptors (EGFR), suggesting that decreases in signaling contribute to the effects of TCDD. In this study, we treated post-confluent NHEKs with 10 nM TCDD and assessed its effects on EGFR binding, EGFR ligand secretion, basal ERK activity, and proliferation. TCDD caused time-dependent deceases in [125I]-EGF binding to levels 78% of basal cell values at 72 h. Amphiregulin (AREG) levels increased with time in culture in basal and TCDD-treated cells, while TGF-α and epiregulin (EREG) secretion were stimulated by TCDD. Inhibiting EGFR ligand release with the metalloproteinase inhibitor batimastat prevented EGFR down-regulation and neutralizing antibodies for AREG and EREG relieved receptor down-regulation. In contrast, neutralizing TGF-α intensified EGFR down-regulation. Treating NHEKs with AREG or TGF-α caused rapid internalization of receptors with TGF-α promoting recycling within 90 min. EREG had limited effects on rapid internalization or recycling. TCDD treatment increased ERK activity, a response reduced by batimastat and the neutralization of all three ligands indicating that the EGFR and its ligands maintain ERK activity. All three EGFR ligands were required for the maintenance of total cell number in basal and TCDD-treated cultures. The EGFR inhibitor PD1530305 blocked basal and TCDD-induced increases in the number of cells labeled by 5-ethynyl-2'-deoxyuridine, identifying an EGFR-dependent pool of proliferating cells that is larger in TCDD-treated cultures. Overall, these data indicate that TCDD-induced EGFR down-regulation in NHEKs is caused by AREG, TGF-α, and EREG, while TGF-α enhances receptor recycling to maintain a pool of EGFR at the cell surface. These receptors are required for ERK activity, maintenance of total cell number, and stimulating the proliferation of a small subset cells.

Publication Title

Chemico-Biological Interactions