Identification of the Cancer Cell Proliferation and Survival Functions of proHB-EGF by Using an Anti-HB-EGF Antibody


Heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (HB-EGF) is a member of the epidermal growth factor family. The membrane-bound proHB-EGF is known to be a precursor of the soluble form of HB-EGF (sHB-EGF), which promotes cell proliferation and survival. While the functions of sHB-EGF have been extensively studied, it is not yet fully understood if proHB-EGF is also involved in cellular signaling events. In this study, we utilized the anti-HB-EGF monoclonal antibodies Y-142 and Y-073, which have differential specificities toward proHB-EGF, in order to elucidate proHB-EGF functions in cancer cells.

Experimental Design

The biological activities of proHB-EGF were assessed in cell proliferation, caspase activation, and juxtacrine activity assays by using a 3D spheroid culture of NUGC-3 cells.


Y-142 and Y-073 exhibited similar binding and neutralizing activities for sHB-EGF. However, only Y-142 bound to proHB-EGF. We could detect the function of endogenously expressed proHB-EGF in a 3D spheroid culture. Blocking proHB-EGF with Y-142 reduced spheroid formation, suppressed cell proliferation, and increased caspase activation in the 3D spheroid culture of NUGC-3 cells.


Our results show that proHB-EGF acts as a cell proliferation and cell survival factor in cancer cells. The results suggest that proHB-EGF may play an important role in tumor progression.