To determine the downstream signaling pathways regulated by betacellulin (BTC) in comparison with epidermal growth factor (EGF), we used Chinese hamster ovary cells overexpressing the human EGF receptor (ErbB1/EGFR). The overall time-dependent activation of EGFR autophosphorylation was identical in cells treated with 1 nM BTC or 1.5 nM EGF. Analysis of site-specific EGFR phosphorylation demonstrated that the BTC and EGF tyrosine phosphorylation of Y1086 was not significantly different. In contrast, the autophosphorylation of Y1173 was markedly reduced in BTC-stimulated cells, compared with EGF stimulation that directly correlated with a reduced BTC stimulation of Shc tyrosine phosphorylation, Ras, and Raf-1 activation. On the other hand, Y1068 phosphorylation was significantly increased after BTC stimulation, compared with EGF in parallel with a greater extent of Erk phosphorylation. Expression of a dominant interfering MEK kinase 1 (MEKK1) and Y1068F EGFR more efficiently blocked the enhanced Erk activation by BTC, compared with EGF. Interestingly BTC had a greater inhibitory effect on apoptosis, compared with EGF, and expression of Y1068F EGFR abolished this enhanced inhibitory effect. Together, these data indicated that although BTC and EGF share overlapping signaling properties, the ability of BTC to enhance Erk activation occurs independent of Ras. The increased BTC activation results from a greater estent of Y1068 EGFR tyrosine phosphorylation and subsequent increased recruitment of the Grb2-MEKK1 comples to the plasma membrane, compared with EGF stimulation. The increased Erk activation by BTC associated with antiapoptotic function.
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