Oncogenic mutations within the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are found in 15 to 30% of all non-small-cell lung carcinomas. The term exon 19 deletion (ex19del) is collectively used to refer to more than 20 distinct genomic alterations within exon 19 that comprise the most common EGFR mutation subtype in lung cancer. Despite this heterogeneity, clinical treatment decisions are made irrespective of which EGFR ex19del variant is present within the tumor, and there is a paucity of information regarding how individual ex19del variants influence protein structure and function. Herein, we identified allele-specific functional differences among ex19del variants attributable to recurring sequence and structure motifs. We built all-atom structural models of 60 ex19del variants identified in patients and combined molecular dynamics simulations with biochemical and biophysical experiments to analyze three ex19del mutations (E746_A750, E746_S752 > V, and L747_A750 > P). We demonstrate that sequence variation in ex19del alters oncogenic cell growth, dimerization propensity, enzyme kinetics, and tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) sensitivity. We show that in contrast to E746_A750 and E746_S752 > V, the L747_A750 > P variant forms highly active ligand-independent dimers. Enzyme kinetic analysis and TKI inhibition experiments suggest that E746_S752 > V and L747_A750 > P display reduced TKI sensitivity due to decreased adenosine 5'-triphosphate Km. Through these analyses, we propose an expanded framework for interpreting ex19del variants and considerations for therapeutic intervention.
Keywords: EGFR; enzyme kinetics; exon 19 deletion; lung cancer; molecular dynamics.