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Identification of Activating Mutations in the Transmembrane and Extracellular Domains of EGFR

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posted on 23.09.2022, 07:10 authored by Anja Wagner, Edgar Galicia-Andrés, Magdalena Teufl, Lukas Gold, Christian Obinger, Peter Sykacek, Chris Oostenbrink, Michael W. Traxlmayr
The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is frequently mutated in human cancer, most notably non-small-cell lung cancer and glioblastoma. While many frequently occurring EGFR mutations are known to confer constitutive EGFR activation, the situation is less clear for rarely detected variants. In fact, more than 1000 distinct EGFR mutations are listed in the Catalogue of Somatic Mutations in Cancer (COSMIC), but for most of them, the functional consequence is unknown. To identify additional, previously unknown activating mutations in EGFR, we screened a randomly mutated EGFR library for constitutive EGFR phosphorylation using a recently developed high-throughput approach termed PhosphoFlowSeq. Enrichment of the well-known activating mutations S768I, T790M, and L858R validated the experimental approach. Importantly, we also identified the activating mutations S442I and L658Q located in the extracellular and transmembrane domains of EGFR, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, neither S442I nor L658Q has been associated with an activating phenotype before. However, both have been detected in cancer samples. Interestingly, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations suggest that the L658Q mutation located in the hydrophobic transmembrane region forms intermolecular hydrogen bonds, thereby promoting EGFR dimerization and activation. Based on these findings, we screened the COSMIC database for additional hydrophilic mutations in the EGFR transmembrane region and indeed detected moderate constitutive activation of EGFR-G652R. Together, this study demonstrates that unbiased screening for activating mutations in EGFR not only yields well-established substitutions located in the kinase domain but also activating mutations in other regions of EGFR, including the extracellular and transmembrane domains.