A novel EGFR variant EGFRx maintains glioblastoma stem cells through STAT5Wei Huang, Jing Li, Hongtao Zhu, Xuhui Qin, Chao Chen, Bing Wang, Jinxia Wei, Yanyang Song, Xia Lu, Zhongyu Li, Wenqing Xia, Aodi He, Lidong Cheng, Xingjiang Yu, Kai Shu, Wei Wang
- Cancer Research
- Neurology (clinical)
Glioblastomas are universally lethal brain tumors containing tumor-propagating glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs). EGFR gene amplification or mutation is frequently detected in GBMs and is associated with poor prognosis. However, EGFR variants in GSCs and their role in the maintenance of GSCs and progression of GBM are unclear.
EGFR variants were detected through bioinformatic HISAT-StringTie-Ballgown pipeline and verified through 5’ RACE, RT-PCR, ribonuclease protection, and northern blotting assays. EGFRx function was investigated through neurosphere, cell viability, intracranial xenograft and RNA-seq assays. EGFRx-STAT5 signaling was investigated through western blotting, coimmunoprecipitation, immunofluorescence, luciferase reporter, RT-PCR and CUT&Tag assays.
We identified a novel EGFR variant (EGFRx), that is specifically expressed in GSCs. Unlike the EGFRvIII variant, which lacks exons 2-7, EGFRx is characterized by the absence of exons 2-14, and encodes an EGFR protein that does not possess the entire extracellular ligand-binding domain. We observed that EGFRx exhibits significant glycosylation, is required for GSC self-renewal, proliferation, and tumorigenesis, and highly active in glioblastomas compared to normal brain tissue. Mechanistically, EGFRx constitutively and specifically activates STAT5 in GSCs through spontaneous asymmetric dimerization of the kinase domain.
EGFRx plays essential roles in the maintenance of the GSC phenotype through constitutive activation of STAT5 and promotes GBM progression, suggesting that EGFRx-STAT5 signaling represents a promising therapeutic target for GBM.