High levels of the soluble form of E-cadherin can be found in the serum of cancer patients and are associated with poor prognosis. Despite the possible predictive value of soluble E-cadherin, little is understood concerning its patho-physiological consequences in tumor progression. In this study, we show that soluble E-cadherin facilitates cell survival via functional interaction with cellular E-cadherin. Exposure of cells to a recombinant form of soluble E-cadherin, at a concentration found in cancer patient's serum, prevents apoptosis due to serum/growth factor withdrawal, and inhibits epithelial lumen formation, a process that requires apoptosis. Further, soluble E-cadherin-mediated cell survival involves activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and EGFR-mediated activation of both phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K)/AKT and ERK1/2 signaling pathways. These results are evidence of a complex functional interplay between EGFR and E-cadherin and also suggest that the presence of soluble E-cadherin in cancer patients' sera might have relevance to cell survival and tumor progression.
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