The transmembrane protein Kekkon 1 (Kek1) has previously been shown to act in a negative feedback loop to downregulate the Drosophila Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (DER) during oogenesis. We show that this protein plays a similar role in other DER-mediated developmental processes. Structure-function analysis reveals that the extracellular Leucine-Rich Repeat (LRR) domains of Kek1 are critical for its function through direct association with DER, whereas its cytoplasmic domain is required for apical subcellular localization. In addition, the use of chimeric proteins between Kek1 extracellular and transmembrane domains fused to DER intracellular domain indicates that Kek1 forms an heterodimer with DER in vivo. To characterize more precisely the mechanism underlying the Kek1/DER interaction, we used mammalian ErbB/EGFR cell-based assays. We show that Kek1 is capable of physically interacting with each of the known members of the mammalian ErbB receptor family and that the Kek1/EGFR interaction inhibits growth factor binding, receptor autophosphorylation and Erk1/2 activation in response to EGF. Finally, in vivo experiments show that Kek1 expression potently suppresses the growth of mouse mammary tumor cells derived from aberrant ErbB receptors activation, but does not interfere with the growth of tumor cells derived from activated Ras. Our results underscore the possibility that Kek1 may be used experimentally to inhibit ErbB receptors and point to the possibility that, as yet uncharacterized, mammalian transmembrane LRR proteins might act as modulators of growth factor signalling.
We have identified the Drosophila transmembrane molecule kekkon 1 (kek1) as an inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and demonstrate that it acts in a negative feedback loop to modulate the activity of the EGFR tyrosine kinase. During oogenesis, kek1 is expressed in response to the Gurken/EGFR signaling pathway, and loss of kek1 activity is associated with an increase in EGFR signaling. Consistent with our loss-of-function studies, we demonstrate that ectopic overexpression of kek1 mimics a loss of EGFR activity. We show that the extracellular and transmembrane domains of Kek1 can inhibit and physically associate with the EGFR, suggesting potential models for this inhibitory mechanism.
We have identified two members of a novel class of genes in Drosophila that encode putative transmembrane proteins with six leucine-rich repeats and a single immunoglobulin loop. These two molecules, Kek1 and Kek2, show striking conservation in their extracellular domains and have large and more divergent intracellular regions. Both genes are expressed in neurons as they differentiate in the embryonic central nervous system (CNS). kek1 is also expressed in other patterned epithelia, such as the follicle cells of the developing egg chamber, where it is found in a dorsal-ventral gradient around the oocyte. The homology of the kek genes to other known adhesion and signaling molecules, together with their expression patterns, suggests that both genes are involved in interactions at the cell surface. Genetic analysis reveals that deletion of the kek1 gene causes no obvious developmental defects. The coexpression of kek2 in the CNS leads us to suggest that Kek1 is part of a family of cell surface proteins with redundant function.