TNF transactivation of EGFR stimulates cytoprotective COX-2 expression in gastrointestinal epithelial cells

Stuart S. Hobbs, Jeremy A. Goettel, Dongchun Liang, Fang Yan, Karen L. Edelblum, Mark R. Frey, Matthew T. Mullane, D. Brent Polk


TNF and epidermal growth factor (EGF) are well-known stimuli of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 expression, and TNF stimulates transactivation of EGF receptor (EGFR) signaling to promote survival in colon epithelial cells. We hypothesized that COX-2 induction and cell survival signaling downstream of TNF are mediated by EGFR transactivation. TNF treatment was more cytotoxic to COX-2−/− mouse colon epithelial (MCE) cells than wild-type (WT) young adult mouse colon (YAMC) epithelial cells or COX-1−/− cells. TNF also induced COX-2 protein and mRNA expression in YAMC cells, but blockade of EGFR kinase activity or expression inhibited COX-2 upregulation. TNF-induced COX-2 expression was reduced and absent in EGFR−/− and TNF receptor-1 (TNFR1) knockout MCE cells, respectively, but was restored upon expression of the WT receptors. Inhibition of mediators of EGFR transactivation, Src family kinases and p38 MAPK, blocked TNF-induced COX-2 protein and mRNA expression. Finally, TNF injection increased COX-2 expression in colon epithelium of WT, but not kinase-defective EGFRwa2 and EGFRwa5, mice. These data indicate that TNFR1-dependent transactivation of EGFR through a p38- and/or an Src-dependent mechanism stimulates COX-2 expression to promote cell survival. This highlights an EGFR-dependent cell signaling pathway and response that may be significant in colitis-associated carcinoma.

  • tumor necrosis factor
  • cyclooxygenase-2
  • epidermal growth factor receptor
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