MUC1 is a large (>400 kDa), heavily glycosylated transmembrane protein that is aberrantly expressed on greater than 90% of human breast carcinomas and subsequent metastases. The precise function of MUC1 overexpression in tumorigenesis is unknown, although various domains of MUC1 have been implicated in cell adhesion, cell signaling, and immunoregulation. Stimulation of the MDA-MB-468 breast cancer line as well as mouse mammary glands with epidermal growth factor results in the co-immunoprecipitation of MUC1 with a tyrosine-phosphorylated protein of approximately 180 kDa. We have generated transgenic lines overexpressing full-length (MMF), cytoplasmic tail deleted (DeltaCT), or tandem repeat deleted (DeltaTR)-human MUC1 under the control of the mouse mammary tumor virus promoter to further examine the role of MUC1 in signaling and tumorigenesis. Immunoprecipitation experiments revealed that full-length transgenic MUC1 physically associates with all four erbB receptors, and co-localizes with erbB1 in the lactating gland. Furthermore, we detected a sharp increase in ERK1/2 activation in MUC1 transgenic mammary glands compared with Muc1 null and wild-type animals. These results point to a novel function of increased MUC1 expression, potentiation of erbB signaling through the activation of mitogenic MAP kinase pathways.
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