Oncogenic kras desensitizes colorectal tumor cells to epidrmal growth factor receptor inhibition and activation

Winan J. van Houdt, Frederik J H Hoogwater, Menno T. de Bruijn, Benjamin L. Emmink, Maarten W. Nijkamp, Danielle A E Raats, Petra van der Groep, Paul van Diest, Inne H M Borel Rinkes, Onno Kranenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-targeting therapeutics have shown efficacy in the treatment of colorectal cancer patients. Clinical studies have revealed that activating mutations in the KRAS protooncogene predict resistance to EGFR-targeted therapy. However, the causality between mutant KRAS and resistance to EGFR inhibition has so far not been demonstrated. Here, we show that deletion of the oncogenic KRAS allele from colorectal tumor cells resensitizes those cells to EGFR inhibitors. Resensitization was accompanied by an acquired dependency on the EGFR for maintaining basal extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activity. Deletion of oncogenic KRAS not only resensitized tumor cells to EGFR inhibition but also promoted EGF-induced NRAS activation, ERK and AKT phosphorylation, and c-FOS transcription. The poor responsiveness of mutant KRAS tumor cells to EGFR inhibition and activation was accompanied by a reduced capacity of these cells to bind and internalize EGF and by a failure to retain EGFR at the plasma membrane. Of 16 human colorectal tumors with activating mutations in KRAS, 15 displayed loss of basolateral EGFR localization. Plasma membrane localization of the EGFR could be restored in vitro by suppressing receptor endocytosis through Rho kinase inhibition. This caused an EGFR-dependent increase in basal and EGF-stimulated ERK phosphorylation but failed to restore tumor cell sensitivity to EGFR inhibition. Our results demonstrate a causal role for oncogenic KRAS in desensitizing tumor cells not only to EGFR inhibitors but also to EGF itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-452
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Medicine(all)


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