ERBB receptor tyrosine kinases and cellular radiation responses

Oncogene. 2003 Sep 1;22(37):5855-65. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1206698.


Ionizing radiation induces in autocrine growth-regulated carcinoma and malignant glioma cells powerful cytoprotective responses that confer relative resistance to consecutive radiation exposures. Understanding the mechanisms of these responses should provide new molecular targets for tumor radiosensitization. ERBB and other receptor Tyr kinases have been identified as immediate early response gene products that are activated by radiation within minutes, as by their physiological growth factor ligands, and induce secondary stimulation of cytoplasmic protein kinase cascades. The simultaneous activation of all receptor Tyr kinases and nonreceptor Tyr kinases leads to complex cytoprotective responses including increased cell proliferation, reduced apoptosis and enhanced DNA repair. Since these responses contribute to cellular radioresistance, ERBB1, the most extensively studied ERBB receptor, is examined as a target for tumor cell radiosensitization. The three methods of ERBB1 inhibition include blockade of growth factor binding by monoclonal antibody against the ligand-binding domain, inhibition of the receptor Tyr kinase-mediating receptor activation, and overexpression of a dominant-negative epidermal growth factor receptor-CD533 that lacks the COOH-terminal 533 amino acids and forms nonfunctional heterodimeric complexes with wild-type receptors. All the three approaches enhance radiation toxicity in vitro and in vivo. The different mechanisms of inhibition have contributed to the understanding of cellular responses to radiation, vary in relative effectiveness and pose different challenges for translation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / radiation effects*


  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases