Overexpression of RhoA-GTP induces activation of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor, dephosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase and increased motility in breast cancer cells

Exp Cell Res. 2005 Sep 10;309(1):229-38. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2005.05.020.


Rho GTPases are overexpressed in human tumors and are involved in a variety of cellular processes such as organization of the actin cytoskeleton, cell-cell contact and malignant transformation. EGFR activation plays a key role in the acquisition of motile properties in carcinoma cells, and it has been proposed that downregulation of FAK activity is one of its most relevant consequences. In the present study, using mammary MCF-7 cells, we demonstrated that overexpression of the active form of the small GTPase RhoA induced the activation of EGFR by a phenomenon that depends on the activity of a metalloproteinase (MMP), which presumably cleaves a membrane-bound EGFR ligand. The EGFR tyrosine phosphorylation correlates with ERK1,2 activation and the stimulation of urokinase production. An aggressive mammary cell line (MDA-MB-231) that overexpresses both RhoA and EGFR in their active forms also displayed an MMP-dependent activation mechanism of EGFR. RhoA-GTP-transfected cells showed a cortical array of F-actin, rounded morphology, reduced spreading potential and a dephosphorylation of FAK that was released by integrin-dependent fibronectin adhesion and a specific EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Our results suggest that the MMP-dependent EGFR activation observed in V14 RhoA cells represents the starting point of a signaling route that promotes cell motility by activation of ERK1,2 and further enhancement of proteases production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Phosphorylation
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / biosynthesis
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / genetics
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*


  • ErbB Receptors
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein