Engineering soluble artificial epidermal growth factor receptor mimics capable of spontaneous in vitro dimerization

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2021 Apr;118(4):1466-1475. doi: 10.1002/bit.27659. Epub 2021 Feb 4.


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a clinically validated target for a multitude of human cancers. The receptor is activated upon ligand binding through a critical dimerization step. Dimerization can be replicated in vitro by locally concentrating the receptor kinase domains on the surface of lipid-based vesicles. In this study we investigated the use of coiled coils to induce spontaneous receptor kinase domain dimerization in vitro to form non-membrane-bound artificial receptor mimics in solution. Two engineered forms of EGFR kinase domain fused to coiled coil complementary peptides were designed to self-associate upon mixing. Two fusion protein species (P3-EGFR and P4-EGFR) independently showed the same activity and polymerization profile known to exist with EGFR kinase domains. Upon mixing the two species, coiled coil heterodimers were formed that induced EGFR association to form dimers of the kinase domains. This was accompanied by 11.5-fold increase in the phosphorylation rate indicative of kinase domain activation equivalent to the levels achieved using vesicle localization and mimicking in vivo ligand-induced activation. This study presents a soluble tyrosine kinase receptor mimic capable of spontaneous in vitro activation that can facilitate functional and drug discovery studies for this clinically important receptor class.

Keywords: EGFR; artificial receptors; coiled coils; kinase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dimerization*
  • ErbB Receptors* / biosynthesis
  • ErbB Receptors* / chemistry
  • ErbB Receptors* / genetics
  • Protein Engineering*
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Sf9 Cells
  • Spodoptera


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • ErbB Receptors