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Molecular & Cellular Analysis Technologies
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Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are essential in the initiation of many protein signaling pathways. Dynamic control of multiple phosphorylation modifications of a single RTK thus can manifest critical control on multiple signal transduction pathways. Alterations of this sensitive dynamic in growth factor networks and aberrant activities of RTKs often have severe biological consequences and are linked to oncogenic processes in many human cancers. Indeed the success of tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as Iressa(tm) and Gleevec(tm) heralds a recent strategy of precisely targeted cancer therapy. An understanding of the molecular mechanisms of these early dynamic events may hold the key to understanding and predicting the nature of oncogenic behavior and for predicting the affects of RTK targeted therapy. An increased understanding of the early temporally regulated states will enable more precise strategies for selectively targeting downstream pathways and may offer a unique approach to cancer therapy based on dynamic rather than static intervention. An integrated platform of novel technologies and approaches are needed to provide temporal resolution of these rapid, early events at a molecular level both in vitro as well as in cell culture. This R21/R33 combined proposal will create a validated general set of innovative and established technologies including rapid reaction methodologies, a novel time-resolved electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) technique, nanospray ESI-TOF, phosphopeptide mapping using ESI-MS LC/MS/MS and site-specific phosphotyrosine antibody detection that will be applicable for the analysis of a wide range of RTKs, their autophosphorylation patterns and downstream signaling events in the critical subsecond to multisecond time domain. We have chosen a prototypical RTK, epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase (EGFR) to develop this platform. The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase pathway is linked to a large number of cancers and an important molecular target for targeted cancer therapeutics such as the small molecule ATP mimetic Iressa (gefinitib) that has recently been approved by the FDA and underscores the generation of specific kinase targeting as a new paradigm for cancer therapy. The ability to probe the molecular and temporal details of the earliest events of autophosphorylation will reveal signature patterns that will provide a new understanding of the differences between normal and oncogenic forms of EGFR and an expanded functional understanding of the emerging therapeutic class of targeted kinase inhibitors. We believe that a profile of the temporal dynamics of phosphorylation in signaling provides a unique molecular fingerprint or signature for distinguishing normal and cancer cells and the responsiveness to targeted inhibitors. New experimental tools and technologies are needed to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells at a molecular level and evaluate the effectiveness of new cancer therapies. This R21/R33 project describes a strategy to develop novel technologies that will allow us to understand how changes occur at a molecular level in a cancerous cell and a more detailed understanding of how new selectively targeted cancer therapies work.