Monoclonal antibody-induced ErbB3 receptor internalization and degradation inhibits growth and migration of human melanoma cells

Cell Cycle. 2012 Apr 1;11(7):1455-67. doi: 10.4161/cc.19861. Epub 2012 Apr 1.


Members of the ErbB receptor family are targets of a growing numbers of small molecules and monoclonal antibodies inhibitors currently under development for the treatment of cancer. Although historical efforts have been directed against ErbB1 (EGFR) and ErbB2 (HER2/neu), emerging evidences have pointed to ErbB3 as a key node in the activation of proliferation/survival pathways from the ErbB receptor family and have fueled enthusiasm toward the clinical development of anti-ErbB3 agents. In this study, we have evaluated the potential therapeutic efficacy of a set of three recently generated anti-human ErbB3 monoclonals, A2, A3 and A4, in human primary melanoma cells. We show that in melanoma cells expressing ErbB1, ErbB3 and ErbB4 but not ErbB2 receptor ligands activate the PI3K/AKT pathway, and this leads to increased cell proliferation and migration. While antibodies A3 and A4 are able to potently inhibit ligand-induced signaling, proliferation and migration, antibody A2 is unable to exert this effect. In attempt to understand the mechanism of action and the basis of this different behavior, we demonstrate, through a series of combined approaches, that antibody efficacy strongly correlates with antibody-induced receptor internalization, degradation and inhibition of receptor recycling to the cell surface. Finally, fine epitope mapping studies through a peptide array show that inhibiting vs. non-inhibiting antibodies have a dramatically different mode of binding to the to the receptor extracellular domain. Our study confirms the key role of ErbB3 and points to exploitation of novel combination therapies for treatment of malignant melanoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Endocytosis
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / drug therapy
  • Melanoma / metabolism*
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptor, ErbB-3 / immunology*
  • Receptor, ErbB-3 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Receptor, ErbB-3
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt