Inhibition of DHHC20-Mediated EGFR Palmitoylation Creates a Dependence on EGFR Signaling

Kristin B. Runkle, Akriti Kharbanda, Ewa Stypulkowski, Xing Jun Cao, Wei Wang, Benjamin A. Garcia, Eric S. Witze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Inappropriate activation of the receptor tyrosine kinase EGFR contributes to a variety of human malignancies. Here we show a mechanism to induce vulnerability to an existing first line treatment for EGFR-driven cancers. We find that inhibiting the palmitoyltransferase DHHC20 creates a dependence on EGFR signaling for cancer cell survival. The loss of palmitoylation increases sustained EGFR signal activation and sensitizes cells to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibition. Our work shows that the reversible modification of EGFR with palmitate "pins" the unstructured C-terminal tail to the plasma membrane, impeding EGFR activation. We identify by mass spectrometry palmitoylated cysteine residues within the C-terminal tail where mutation of the cysteine residues to alanine is sufficient to activate EGFR signaling promoting cell migration and transformation. Our results reveal that the targeting of a peripheral modulator of EGFR signaling, DHHC20, causes a loss of signal regulation and susceptibility to EGFR inhibitor-induced cell death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-396
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular cell
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 5 2016


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