Constitutive expression of Heregulin induces apoptosis in an erbB-2 overexpressing breast cancer cell line SKBr-3.

F. K. Guerra-Vladusic, G. Scott, V. Weaver, E. A. Vladusic, M. S. Tsai, C. C. Benz, R. Lupu

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23 Scopus citations


We have previously reported that Heregulin (HRG)/neu differentiation factor (NDF) induced growth arrest and cellular differentiation in breast cancer cells overexpressing erbB-2 receptor. To elucidate the cellular mechanisms underlying the growth inhibition by HRG, we developed an in vitro model by transfection of HRG cDNA into the erbB-2 overexpressing breast cancer cell line, SKBr-3. We showed that the enforced expression of HRG in SKBr-3 cells induces dramatic morphological changes and pronounced inhibition of anchorage-dependent and -independent growth. Most SKBr-3/HRG-transfected (SK/HRG) cells exhibited about 15-fold increase in size and persisted as multinucleated cells with extended flattened vacuole-filled cytoplasm with reduced cell attachment. The growth suppression of SK/HRG cells was accompanied by a reduction in S phase, the presence of a G2-M cell cycle delay, and an increase in DNA aneuploid components. In addition, DNA fragmentation assays showed that HRG induced apoptosis of SKBr-3 cells. In contrast, while HRG treatment of other erbB-2 overexpressing breast cancer cell lines led to growth arrest and cell detachment, it did not induce apoptotic features. Thus, this study demonstrates that while growth arrest and cell detachment are general effects of HRG towards erbB-2 overexpressing cells, the ability of HRG to induce apoptosis is a phenomenon confined to selective cells including SKBr-3 cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-892
Number of pages10
JournalInternational journal of oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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