A subclass of tumor-inhibitory monoclonal antibodies to ErbB-2/HER2 blocks crosstalk with growth factor receptors

Oncogene. 1997 May 1;14(17):2099-109. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1201029.


ErbB-2 is an orphan receptor that belongs to a family of tyrosine kinase receptors for either epidermal growth factor (EGF) or Neu differentiation factor (NDF/neuregulin). Because overexpression of the erbB-2 proto-oncogene is frequently associated with an aggressive clinical course of certain human adenocarcinomas, the encoded protein is an attractive target for immunotherapy. Indeed, certain monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to ErbB-2 effectively inhibit tumor growth in animal models and in clinical trials, but the underlying mechanism is incompletely understood. To study this question, we generated a large battery of mAbs to ErbB-2, that were classified epitopically. Whereas most antibodies stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of ErbB-2, their anti-tumor effect correlated with its accelerated endocytic degradation. One group of tumor-inhibitory mAbs (Class II mAbs) was elicited by the most antigenic site of ErbB-2, and inhibited in trans binding of NDF and EGF to their direct receptors. The inhibitory effect was due to acceleration of ligand dissociation, and it resulted in the reduction of the ability of ErbB-2 to transactivate the mitogenic signals of NDF and EGF. These results identify two potential mechanisms of antibody-induced therapy: acceleration of ErbB-2 endocytosis by homodimerization and blocking of heterodimerization between ErbB-2 and growth factor receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Dimerization
  • Endocytosis / drug effects
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / pharmacology
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Glycoproteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glycoproteins / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Models, Biological
  • Multigene Family
  • Neoplasm Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neoplasm Proteins / chemistry
  • Neoplasm Proteins / immunology*
  • Neuregulins
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / chemistry
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / immunology*
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / drug effects*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Epitopes
  • Glycoproteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Neuregulins
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • Receptor, ErbB-2