Aberrant expression, activation, and down-regulation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) have causal roles in many human cancers, and post-translational modifications including phosphorylation and ubiquitination and protein-protein interactions directly modulate EGFR function. Quantitative mass spectrometric analyses including selected reaction monitoring (also known as multiple reaction monitoring) were applied to the EGFR and associated proteins. In response to epidermal growth factor (EGF) stimulation of cells, phosphorylations at EGFR Ser(991) and Tyr(998) accumulated more slowly than at receptor sites involved in RAS-ERK signaling. Phosphorylation-deficient mutant receptors S991A and Y998F activated ERK in response to EGF but were impaired for receptor endocytosis. Consistent with these results, the mutant receptors retained a network of interactions with known signaling proteins including EGF-stimulated binding to the adaptor GRB2. Compared with wild type EGFR the Y998F variant had diminished EGF-stimulated interaction with the ubiquitin E3 ligase CBL, and the S991A variant had decreased associated ubiquitin. The endocytosis-defective mutant receptors were found to have elevated phosphorylation at positions Ser(1039) and Thr(1041). These residues reside in a serine/threonine-rich region of the receptor previously implicated in p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent stress/cytokine-induced EGFR internalization and recycling (Zwang, Y., and Yarden, Y. (2006) p38 MAP kinase mediates stress-induced internalization of EGFR: implications for cancer chemotherapy. EMBO J. 25, 4195-4206). EGF-induced phosphorylations at Ser(1039) and Thr(1041) were blocked by treatment of cells with SB-202190, a selective inhibitor of p38. These results suggest that coordinated phosphorylation of EGFR involving sites Tyr(998), Ser(991), Ser(1039), and Thr(1041) governs the trafficking of EGF receptors. This reinforces the notion that EGFR function is manifest through spatially and temporally controlled protein-protein interactions and phosphorylations.
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