Upregulation and activation of PKC alpha by ErbB2 through Src promotes breast cancer cell invasion that can be blocked by combined treatment with PKC alpha and Src inhibitors

Oncogene. 2006 Jun 1;25(23):3286-95. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1209361. Epub 2006 Jan 23.


Although ErbB2 is known to enhance breast cancer metastasis, the signaling events responsible for this remain elusive. Alpha-isozyme of protein kinase C (PKCalpha), which is involved in cancer development and progression, has been suggested to be activated by ErbB2 without direct evidence. In addition, the roles of PKCalpha in ErbB2-mediated cancer cell malignancy have not been clearly identified. In this study, we investigated whether ErbB2 can activate PKCalpha and determined what role PKCalpha plays in ErbB2-mediated breast cancer cell invasion. We expressed wild-type and mutant ErbB2 with altered signaling capacities in MDA-MB-435 breast cancer cells and revealed that overexpression or activation of ErbB2 in MDA-MB-435 cells upregulated and activated PKCalpha and that downregulation of ErbB2 by small-interfering RNA decreased the expression and activity of PKCalpha in BT474 breast cancer cells. These in vitro results were supported by data from breast cancer patient samples. In 150 breast cancer tumor samples, ErbB2-overexpressing tumors showed significantly higher positive rates of PKCalpha membrane immunohistochemistry staining than that of ErbB2-low-expressing tumors. Mechanistically, we found that PKCalpha is co-immunoprecipitated with Src and PKCalpha expression and activity can be decreased by Src inhibitor PP2 and by the expression of a dominant-negative mutant of Src. Moreover, ErbB2-mediated upregulation of urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) is reduced by either the PKCalpha inhibitor Go6976 or the Src inhibitor PP2, and the combination of Go6976 with PP2 is superior to either agent alone in suppressing uPAR expression and cell invasion. These results demonstrate that PKCalpha is critical for ErbB2-mediated cancer cell invasion and provide valuable insights for current and future PKCalpha and Src inhibitor clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carbazoles / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Activation / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indoles / pharmacology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / prevention & control
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / drug therapy
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / prevention & control
  • Protein Kinase C-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase C-alpha / biosynthesis*
  • Protein Kinase C-alpha / metabolism
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins pp60(c-src) / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins pp60(c-src) / physiology*
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects*


  • AG 1879
  • Carbazoles
  • Indoles
  • PLAUR protein, human
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Pyrimidines
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator
  • Go 6976
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins pp60(c-src)
  • Protein Kinase C-alpha