Origin of diverse phosphorylation patterns in the ERBB system

Abstract

Intercellular signals induce various cellular responses, including growth, proliferation, and differentiation, via the dynamic processes of signal transduction pathways. For cell fate decisions, ligand-binding induces the phosphorylation of ERBB receptors, which in turn activate downstream molecules. The ERBB family includes four subtypes, which diverged through two gene duplications from a common ancestor. Differences in the expression patterns of the subtypes have been reported between different organs in the human body. However, how these different expression properties influence the diverse phosphorylation levels of ERBB proteins is not well understood. Here we study the origin of the phosphorylation responses by experimental and mathematical analyses. The experimental measurements clarified that the phosphorylation levels heavily depend on the ERBB expression profiles. We developed a mathematical model consisting of the four subtypes as monomers, homodimers, and heterodimers and estimated the rate constants governing the phosphorylation responses from the experimental data. To understand the origin of the diversity, we analyzed the effects of the expression levels and reaction rates of the ERBB subtypes on the diversity. The difference in phosphorylation rates between ERBB subtypes showed a much greater contribution to the diversity than did the dimerization rates. This result implies that divergent evolution in phosphorylation reactions rather than in dimerization reactions after whole genome duplications was essential for increasing the diversity of the phosphorylation responses.

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