Epidermal growth factor inhibition of c-Myc-mediated apoptosis through Akt and Erk involves Bcl-xL upregulation in mammary epithelial cells

Exp Cell Res. 2003 Jul 15;287(2):397-410. doi: 10.1016/s0014-4827(03)00135-6.


In earlier studies, we and others have established that activation of EGFR can promote survival in association with upregulation of Bcl-x(L). However, the mechanism responsible for upregulation of Bcl-x(L) is unknown. For the current studies we have chosen pro-apoptotic, c-Myc-overexpressing murine mammary epithelial cells (MMECs) derived from MMTV-c-Myc transgenic mouse tumors. We now demonstrate that EGFR activation promotes survival through Akt and Erk1/2. Blockade of EGFR kinase activity and the PI3-K/Akt and MEK/Erk pathways with pharmacological inhibitors resulted in a significant induction of cellular apoptosis, paralleled by a downregulation of both Akt and Erk1/2 proteins. Consistent with a survival-promoting role of Akt, we observed that constitutively activated Akt (Myr-Akt) inhibited apoptosis of pro-apoptotic, c-Myc-overexpressing cells following the inhibition of EGFR tyrosine kinase activity. In addressing possible downstream effectors of EGFR through activated Akt, we detected significant upregulation of Bcl-x(L) protein, suggesting this pro-survival protein is a target of Akt in MMECs. By using pharmacological inhibitors of PI3-K/Akt and MEK/Erk together with dominant-negative Akt and Erk1 we observed the decrease in Bcl-x(L) protein. Our findings may be of importance for understanding the emerging role of Bcl-x(L) as a potential marker of poor prognosis in breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Butadienes / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Chromones / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / drug effects
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / pharmacology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / drug effects
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / drug effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Quinazolines / pharmacology
  • Up-Regulation
  • bcl-X Protein


  • Bcl2l1 protein, mouse
  • Butadienes
  • Chromones
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Morpholines
  • Nitriles
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Quinazolines
  • U 0126
  • bcl-X Protein
  • 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • 4-((3-bromophenyl)amino)-6,7-dimethoxyquinazoline