EphA2 is a transmembrane receptor tyrosine kinase that is up-regulated on many aggressive carcinoma cells. Despite its overexpression, the EphA2 on malignant cells fails to bind its ligand, ephrinA1, which is anchored to the membrane of adjacent cells. Unlike other receptor kinases, EphA2 demonstrates kinase activity that is independent of ligand binding. However, ligand binding causes EphA2 to negatively regulate tumor cell growth and migration. Herein, we translate knowledge of EphA2 into strategies that selectively target malignant cells. Using a novel approach to preserve extracellular epitopes and optimize antibody diversity, we generated monoclonal antibodies that identify epitopes on the extracellular domain of EphA2. EphA2 antibodies were selected for their abilities to inhibit behaviors that are unique to metastatic cells while minimizing damage to nontransformed cells. A subset of EphA2 monoclonal antibodies were found to inhibit the soft agar colonization by MDA-MB-231 breast tumor cells but did not affect monolayer growth by nontransformed MCF-10A breast epithelial cells. These EphA2 antibodies also prevented tumor cells from forming tubular networks on reconstituted basement membranes, which is a sensitive indicator of metastatic character. Biochemical analyses showed that biologically active antibodies induced EphA2 phosphorylation and subsequent degradation. Antisensebased targeting of EphA2 similarly inhibited soft agar colonization, suggesting that the antibodies repress malignant behavior by down-regulating EphA2. These results suggest an opportunity for antibody-based targeting of the many cancers that overexpress EphA2. Our studies also emphasize how tumor-specific cellular behaviors can be exploited to identify and screen potential therapeutic targets.
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|Published - May 15 2002