Elevated expression of erbB3 confers paclitaxel resistance in erbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cells via upregulation of Survivin

Oncogene. 2010 Jul 22;29(29):4225-36. doi: 10.1038/onc.2010.180. Epub 2010 May 24.


The coexpression of erbB3 and erbB2 is frequently observed in breast cancer; and erbB3 has a critical role in erbB2 promotion of breast cancer progression and anti-estrogen resistance. In this study, we determine the role of erbB3 in erbB2-mediated paclitaxel resistance in breast cancer cells. The overexpression of exogenous erbB3 via either stable or transient transfection in erbB2-overexpressing, but not epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-expressing, breast cancer cells significantly decreases paclitaxel-induced growth inhibition and apoptosis. Consistently, knockdown of erbB3 expression with a specific short hairpin RNA (shRNA) in breast cancer cells with coexpression of both erbB2 and erbB3 enhances paclitaxel-induced apoptosis evidenced by increased DNA fragmentation, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage and activation of caspase-3 and -8. Furthermore, while forced overexpression of erbB3 increases, specific knockdown of erbB3 decreases the expression levels of Survivin only in the erbB2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. Targeting Survivin with specific shRNA overcomes paclitaxel resistance without effect on the expression levels of either erbB2 or erbB3. Mechanistic studies indicate that the specific phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI-3K), Akt and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors, but not the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitor, not only abrogate erbB3-mediated upregulation of Survivin, but also reinforce the erbB2/erbB3-coexpressing breast cancer cells to paclitaxel-induced growth inhibition. These data demonstrate that heterodimerization of erbB2/erbB3 is a prerequisite for erbB2 tyrosine kinase activation; and elevated expression of erbB3 is required for erbB2-mediated paclitaxel resistance in breast cancer cells via PI-3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway-dependent upregulation of Survivin. Our studies suggest that new strategies targeting erbB3 or Survivin may enhance the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents against erbB2-overexpressing breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics*
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / physiology
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / physiology
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / analysis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / physiology*
  • Receptor, ErbB-3 / analysis
  • Receptor, ErbB-3 / physiology*
  • Survivin
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Survivin
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Receptor, ErbB-3
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Paclitaxel