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Nuclear functions and subcellular trafficking mechanisms of the epidermal growth factor receptor family

Ying-Nai Wang12 and Mien-Chie Hung12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, 77030, USA

2 Center for Molecular Medicine and Graduate Institute of Cancer Biology, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

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Cell & Bioscience 2012, 2:13  doi:10.1186/2045-3701-2-13

Published: 20 April 2012


Accumulating evidence suggests that various diseases, including many types of cancer, result from alteration of subcellular protein localization and compartmentalization. Therefore, it is worthwhile to expand our knowledge in subcellular trafficking of proteins, such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and ErbB-2 of the receptor tyrosine kinases, which are highly expressed and activated in human malignancies and frequently correlated with poor prognosis. The well-characterized trafficking of cell surface EGFR is routed, via endocytosis and endosomal sorting, to either the lysosomes for degradation or back to the plasma membrane for recycling. A novel nuclear mode of EGFR signaling pathway has been gradually deciphered in which EGFR is shuttled from the cell surface to the nucleus after endocytosis, and there, it acts as a transcriptional regulator, transmits signals, and is involved in multiple biological functions, including cell proliferation, tumor progression, DNA repair and replication, and chemo- and radio-resistance. Internalized EGFR can also be transported from the cell surface to several intracellular compartments, such as the Golgi apparatus, the endoplasmic reticulum, and the mitochondria, in addition to the nucleus. In this review, we will summarize the functions of nuclear EGFR family and the potential pathways by which EGFR is trafficked from the cell surface to a variety of cellular organelles. A better understanding of the molecular mechanism of EGFR trafficking will shed light on both the receptor biology and potential therapeutic targets of anti-EGFR therapies for clinical application.

EGFR family receptors; Nuclear translocation; Subcellular trafficking