The EphB6 receptor cooperates with c-Cbl to regulate the behavior of breast cancer cells.
Cancer invasiveness plays a major role in the mortality of patients with solid tumors, and deregulated cell adhesion and migration are suspected to drive invasive behavior. Since Eph receptor tyrosine kinases control both cell attachment and migration, they may act to define the level of cancer invasiveness. EphB6 is an unusual Eph receptor, lacking catalytic capacity due to alterations in its kinase domain. Interestingly, increased metastatic activity is associated with reduced EphB6 receptor expression in several tumor types, including breast cancer. This emphasizes the potential of EphB6 to act as a suppressor of cancer aggressiveness; however, the mechanism of its action is not well understood. We show that restoration of EphB6 expression in invasive breast cancer cells supports actin-dependent spreading and attachment and blocks invasiveness. EphB6 stimulation induces its tyrosine phosphorylation, which is crucial for its function and is mediated by the EphB4 receptor. This is accompanied by EphB6-c-Cbl interaction and phosphorylation of c-Cbl partner, the Abl kinase. Cbl silencing suppresses Abl phosphorylation, cell adhesion, and morphologic changes and blocks the ability of EphB6 to inhibit invasiveness, confirming its importance for EphB6 activity. Despite its crucial role in EphB6 responses, EphB4 also acts in an EphB6-independent manner to enhance invasive activity, suggesting that cancer invasiveness may be defined by the balance in the EphB6-EphB4 system. Overall, our observations suggest a new role for EphB6 in suppressing cancer invasiveness through c-Cbl-dependent signaling, morphologic changes, and cell attachment and indicate that EphB6 may represent a useful prognostic marker and a promising target for therapeutic approaches.