Activation of EGFR-DNA-PKcs pathway by IGFBP2 protects esophageal adenocarcinoma cells from acidic bile salts-induced DNA damage

Zhangjian Zhou, Heng Lu, Shoumin Zhu, Ahmed Gomaa, Zheng Chen, Jin Yan, Kay Washington, Wael El-Rifai, Chengxue Dang, Dunfa Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) is rising rapidly in the US and Western countries. The development of Barrett's esophagus (BE) and its progression to EAC have been linked to chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Exposure of BE and EAC cells to acidic bile salts (ABS) in GERD conditions induces high levels of oxidative stress and DNA damage. In this study, we investigated the role of insulin-like growth factor binding protein 2 (IGFBP2) in regulating ABS-induced DNA double-strand breaks. Methods: Real-time RT-PCR, western blot, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, co-immunoprecipitation, flow cytometry, and cycloheximide (CHX) chase assays were used in this study. To mimic GERD conditions, a cocktail of acidic bile salts (pH 4) was used in 2D and 3D organotypic culture models. Overexpression and knockdown of IGFBP2 in EAC cells were established to examine the functional and mechanistic roles of IGFBP2 in ABS-induced DNA damage. Results: Our results demonstrated high levels of IGFBP2 mRNA and protein in EAC cell lines as compared to precancerous Barrett's cell lines, and IGFBP2 is frequently overexpressed in EACs (31/57). Treatment of EAC cells with ABS, to mimic GERD conditions, induced high levels of IGFBP2 expression. Knocking down endogenous IGFBP2 in FLO1 cells (with constitutive high levels of IGFBP2) led to a significant increase in DNA double-strand breaks and apoptosis, following transient exposure to ABS. On the other hand, overexpression of exogenous IGFBP2 in OE33 cells (with low endogenous levels of IGFBP2) had a protective effect against ABS-induced double-strand breaks and apoptosis. We found that IGFBP2 is required for ABS-induced nuclear accumulation and phosphorylation of EGFR and DNA-PKcs, which are necessary for DNA damage repair activity. Using co-immunoprecipitation assay, we detected co-localization of IGFBP2 with EGFR and DNA-PKcs, following acidic bile salts treatment. We further demonstrated, using cycloheximide chase assay, that IGFBP2 promotes EGFR protein stability in response to ABS exposure. Conclusions: IGFBP2 protects EAC cells against ABS-induced DNA damage and apoptosis through stabilization and activation of EGFR - DNA-PKcs signaling axis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2019


  • Acidic bile salts
  • DNA damage
  • DNA-PKcs
  • EGFR
  • Esophageal adenocarcinoma
  • IGFBP2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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