The duration and specificity of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation and signaling are determinants of cellular decision processes and are tightly regulated by receptor dephosphorylation, internalization and degradation. In addition, regulatory proteins that are upregulated or activated post-transcriptionally upon receptor activation may initiate feedback loops that play crucial roles in spatiotemporal regulation of signaling. We examined the roles of Sprouty2 (SPRY2) and mitogen-inducible gene 6 (MIG6), two feedback regulators of EGFR trafficking and signaling, in lung cancer cells with or without EGFR-activating mutations. These mutations are of interest because they confer unusual cellular sensitivity to EGFR inhibition through a mechanism involving an impairment of EGFR endocytosis. We found that the endocytosis of wild-type and mutant EGFR was promoted by SPRY2 knockdown and antagonized by MIG6 knockdown. SPRY2 knockdown also significantly reduced extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation, EGFR expression, and EGFR recycling. In a cell line expressing mutant EGFR, this effect on ERK led to a marked increase in cell death response to EGFR inhibition. The effects of SPRY2 knockdown on EGFR endocytosis and recycling were primarily the result of the concomitant change in EGFR expression, but this was not true for the observed changes in ERK phosphorylation. Thus, our study demonstrates that SPRY2 and MIG6 are important regulators of wild-type and mutant EGFR trafficking and points to an EGFR expression-independent function of SPRY2 in the regulation of ERK activity that may impact cellular sensitivity to EGFR inhibitors, especially in the context of EGFR mutation.
Keywords: Endocytosis; Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK); Feedback; Recycling.