Modeling the effects of HER/ErbB1-3 coexpression on receptor dimerization and biological response

Biophys J. 2006 Jun 1;90(11):3993-4009. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.105.080580. Epub 2006 Mar 13.


The human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER/ErbB) system comprises the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR/HER1) and three other homologs, namely HERs 2-4. This receptor system plays a critical role in cell proliferation and differentiation and receptor overexpression has been associated with poor prognosis in cancers of the epithelium. Here, we examine the effect of coexpressing varying levels of HERs 1-3 on the receptor dimerization patterns using a detailed kinetic model for HER/ErbB dimerization and trafficking. Our results indicate that coexpression of EGFR with HER2 or HER3 biases signaling to the cell surface and retards signal downregulation. In addition, simultaneous coexpression of HERs 1-3 leads to an abundance of HER2-HER3 heterodimers, which are known to be potent inducers of cell growth and transformation. Our new approach to use parameter dependence analysis in experimental design reveals that measurements of HER3 phosphorylation and HER2 internalization ratio may prove to be especially useful for the estimation of critical model parameters. Further, we examine the effect of receptor dimerization patterns on biological response using a simple phenomenological model. Results indicate that coexpression of EGFR with HER2 and HER3 at low to moderate levels may enable cells to match the response of a high HER2 expresser.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Dimerization
  • ErbB Receptors / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Transport
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / biosynthesis*
  • Receptor, ErbB-3 / biosynthesis*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Ligands
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Receptor, ErbB-3