ErbB4, a member of the epidermal growth factor receptor family, plays a role in normal breast and breast cancer development by regulating mammary epithelial cell proliferation, survival and differentiation. In this study, we show that WWP1, a C2-WW-HECT type E3 ubiquitin ligase, binds, ubiquitinates and destructs ErbB4-CYT1, but much less efficiently for CYT2, isoforms (both JMa and JMb). The protein-protein interaction occurs primarily between the first and third WW domains of WWP1 and the second PY motif of ErbB4. Knockdown of WWP1 by two different small interfering RNAs increases the endogenous ErbB4 protein levels in both MCF7 and T47D breast cancer cell lines. In addition, overexpression of the wild type, but not the catalytic inactive WWP1, dramatically decreases the endogenous ErbB4 protein levels in MCF7. Importantly, we found that WWP1 negatively regulates the heregulin-beta1-stimulated ErbB4 activity as measured by the serum response element report assay and the BRCA1 mRNA expression. After a systematic screening of all WWP1 family members by small interfering RNA, we found that AIP4/Itch and HECW1/NEDL1 also negatively regulate the ErbB4 protein expression in T47D. Interestingly, the protein expression levels of both WWP1 and ErbB4 are higher in estrogen receptor-alpha-positive than in estrogen receptor-alpha-negative breast cancer cell lines. These data suggest that WWP1 and its family members suppress the ErbB4 expression and function in breast cancer.
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