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Profiling of protein–protein interactions via single-molecule techniques predicts the dependence of cancers on growth-factor receptors

Nature Biomedical Engineeringvolume 2pages239253 (2018) | Download Citation


The accumulation of genetic and epigenetic alterations in cancer cells rewires cellular signalling pathways through changes in the patterns of protein–protein interactions (PPIs). Understanding these patterns may facilitate the design of tailored cancer therapies. Here, we show that single-molecule pull-down and co-immunoprecipitation techniques can be used to characterize signalling complexes of the human epidermal growth-factor receptor (HER) family in specific cancers. By analysing cancer-specific signalling phenotypes, including post-translational modifications and PPIs with downstream interactions, we found that activating mutations of the epidermal growth-factor receptor (EGFR) gene led to the formation of large protein complexes surrounding mutant EGFR proteins and to a reduction in the dependency of mutant EGFR signalling on phosphotyrosine residues, and that the strength of HER-family PPIs is correlated with the strength of the dependence of breast and lung adenocarcinoma cells on HER-family signalling pathways. Furthermore, using co-immunoprecipitation profiling to screen for EGFR-dependent cancers, we identified non-small-cell lung cancers that respond to an EGFR-targeted inhibitor. Our approach might help predict responses to targeted cancer therapies, particularly for cancers that lack actionable genomic mutations.

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We thank S. H. Baek and H. Kim (Seoul National University) for technical assistance with the molecular work. This work was supported by the Samsung Science and Technology Foundation under project number SSTF-BA1301-10. Generation of the patient-derived cell lines and tumour xenograft models was supported by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea, funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (to B.C.C.; project number 2016R1A2B3016282).

Author information

Author notes

    • Hong-Won Lee
    •  & Ji Young Ryu

    Present address: Proteina Co., Ltd., Seoul, South Korea

  1. These authors contributed equally: Hong-Won Lee, Byoungsan Choi, Han Na Kang, Hyunwoo Kim.


  1. School of Biological Sciences and Institute for Molecular Biology and Genetics, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea

    • Hong-Won Lee
    • , Ji Young Ryu
    • , Min Ju Shon
    •  & Tae-Young Yoon
  2. Center for Nanomedicine, Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

    • Hong-Won Lee
    • , Ji Young Ryu
    •  & Tae-Young Yoon
  3. Yonsei-IBS Institute, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

    • Hong-Won Lee
    • , Ji Young Ryu
    •  & Tae-Young Yoon
  4. Department of Physics, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Daejeon, South Korea

    • Hong-Won Lee
    • , Byoungsan Choi
    • , Hyunwoo Kim
    • , Minkwon Cha
    • , Ji Young Ryu
    • , Sangwoo Park
    •  & Tae-Young Yoon
  5. Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yonsei Cancer Center, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea

    • Han Na Kang
    • , Jinyoung Sohn
    • , Mi Ran Yun
    • , Joo Yeun Han
    •  & Byoung Chul Cho
  6. Department of Internal Medicine, Seoul National University Hospital, Cancer Research Institute, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea

    • Ahrum Min
    •  & Seock-Ah Im
  7. Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, KAIST, Daejeon, South Korea

    • Kihyuk Shin
    •  & Seung-Hyo Lee
  8. Department of Dermatology, Pusan National University School of Medicine, Busan, South Korea

    • Kihyuk Shin
  9. Center for Theragnosis, Biomedical Research Institute, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul, South Korea

    • Cherlhyun Jeong
  10. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cancer Research Institute, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea

    • Junho Chung


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H.-W.L., J.C., S.-H.L., S.-A.I., B.C.C. and T.-Y.Y. designed the experiments. H.-W.L., B.C., H.K., S.P., M.C., C.J. and T.-Y.Y. performed the single-molecule experiments. H.N.K., J.S., K.S., S.-H.L. and B.C.C. characterized the lung adenocarcinoma cells. A.M. and S.-A.I. characterized the breast cancer cells. H.N.K., M.R.Y., J.Y.H. and B.C.C. generated the PDTXs and measured their drug responses. H.-W.L., J.Y.R. and M.J.S. developed the single-molecule imaging and analysis programs. H.-W.L. and H.K. performed the PLA analysis. H.-W.L. and T.-Y.Y. wrote the paper with input from all authors.

Competing interests

H.-W.L. and T.-Y.Y. hold a patent based on these findings (PCT/KR2014/010299). S.-A.I. received research funding from AstraZeneca and acts in an advisory role for Novartis and AstraZeneca. H.-W.L. and J.Y.R. are senior scientists at Proteina.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Seock-Ah Im or Byoung Chul Cho or Tae-Young Yoon.

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