Two alternative mechanisms control the interconversion of functional states of the epidermal growth factor receptor

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Biochemistry

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Cells, Cultured; Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid; Epidermal Growth Factor; Kinetics; Peptides; Phosphorylation; Protein-Tyrosine Kinases; Receptor, Epidermal Growth Factor; Sphingosine; Temperature; Transforming Growth Factors


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


Epidermal growth factor (EGF) and transforming growth factor alpha bind to a common receptor at the cell surface. Both the affinity and the tyrosine protein kinase activity of the receptor are regulated by exogenous factors, such as platelet-derived growth factor. A protein kinase C-dependent (Ca2+/phospholipid-dependent enzyme) and independent regulatory mechanism have been described. The protein kinase C-dependent mechanism results in the inhibition of the affinity and tyrosine kinase activity of the EGF receptor. We describe in this report an alternative mechanism of regulation of the receptor that is mediated by sphingosine. Treatment of WI-38 human fetal lung fibroblasts with 5 microM sphingosine for 2 min at 37 degrees C caused a marked increase in the affinity of the EGF receptor. Similar results were obtained when isolated plasma membranes prepared from these cells were incubated with sphingosine. A stimulation of the EGF receptor tyrosine protein kinase activity was also observed after sphingosine-treatment of plasma membranes. Sphingosine caused a decrease in the Km for ATP and an increase in the Vmax for the tyrosine phosphorylation of a synthetic peptide substrate. Control experiments demonstrated that these actions of sphingosine were not secondary to the inhibition of protein kinase C. These data indicate that sphingosine causes the functional conversion of the EGF receptor into an activated state that expresses both a high affinity for EGF and an increased tyrosine kinase activity. We conclude that sphingosine is a bioactive molecule in human fibroblasts.


J Biol Chem. 1988 Apr 15;263(11):5373-9.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of biological chemistry

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