A combination of Trastuzumab and 17-AAG induces enhanced ubiquitinylation and lysosomal pathway-dependent ErbB2 degradation and cytotoxicity in ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cells

Cancer Biol Ther. 2008 Oct;7(10):1630-40. doi: 10.4161/cbt.7.10.6585. Epub 2008 Oct 9.


ErbB2 (or Her2/Neu) overexpression in breast cancer signifies poorer prognosis, yet it has provided an avenue for targeted therapy as demonstrated by the success of the humanized monoclonal antibody Trastuzumab (Herceptin). Resistance to Trastuzumab and eventual failure in most cases, however, necessitate alternate ErbB2-targeted therapies. HSP90 inhibitors such as 17-allylaminodemethoxygeldanamycin (17-AAG), potently downregulate the cell surface ErbB2. While the precise mechanisms of Trastuzumab or 17-AAG action remain unclear, ubiquitinylation-dependent proteasomal or lysosomal degradation of ErbB2 appears to play a substantial role. As Trastuzumab and 17-AAG induce the recruitment of distinct E3 ubiquitin ligases, Cbl and CHIP respectively, to ErbB2, we hypothesized that 17-AAG and Trastuzumab combination could induce a higher level of ubiquitinylation and downregulation of ErbB2 as compared to single drug treatments. We present biochemical and cell biological evidence that combined 17-AAG and Trastuzumab treatment of ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cell lines leads to enhanced ubiquitinylation, downregulation from the cell surface and lysosomal degradation of ErbB2. Importantly, combined 17-AAG and Trastuzumab treatment induced synergistic growth arrest and cell death specifically in ErbB2-overexpressing but not in ErbB2-low breast cancer cells. Our results suggest the 17-AAG and Trastuzumab combination as a mechanism-based combinatorial targeted therapy for ErbB2-overexpressing breast cancer patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / administration & dosage*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Benzoquinones / administration & dosage*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic / administration & dosage*
  • Lysosomes / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism*
  • Trastuzumab
  • Ubiquitin / chemistry*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Benzoquinones
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Lactams, Macrocyclic
  • Ubiquitin
  • tanespimycin
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab

Grant support