The Ephrin B2 Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Is a Regulator of Proto-oncogene MYC and Molecular Programs Central to Barrett's Neoplasia.


Mechanisms contributing to the onset and progression of Barrett's (BE)-associated esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) remain elusive. Here, we interrogated the major signaling pathways deregulated early in the development of Barrett's neoplasia.

Whole-transcriptome RNA sequencing analysis was performed in primary BE, EAC, normal esophageal squamous, and gastric biopsy tissues (n = 89). Select pathway components were confirmed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction in an independent cohort of premalignant and malignant biopsy tissues (n = 885). Functional impact of selected pathway was interrogated using transcriptomic, proteomic, and pharmacogenetic analyses in mammalian esophageal organotypic and patient-derived BE/EAC cell line models, in vitro and/or in vivo.

The vast majority of primary BE/EAC tissues and cell line models showed hyperactivation of EphB2 signaling. Transcriptomic/proteomic analyses identified EphB2 as an endogenous binding partner of MYC binding protein 2, and an upstream regulator of c-MYC. Knockdown of EphB2 significantly impeded the viability/proliferation of EAC and BE cells in vitro/in vivo. Activation of EphB2 in normal esophageal squamous 3-dimensional organotypes disrupted epithelial maturation and promoted columnar differentiation programs, notably including MYC. EphB2 and MYC showed selective induction in esophageal submucosal glands with acinar ductal metaplasia, and in a porcine model of BE-like esophageal submucosal gland spheroids. Clinically approved inhibitors of MEK, a protein kinase that regulates MYC, effectively suppressed EAC tumor growth in vivo.

The EphB2 signaling is frequently hyperactivated across the BE-EAC continuum. EphB2 is an upstream regulator of MYC, and activation of EphB2-MYC axis likely precedes BE development. Targeting EphB2/MYC could be a promising therapeutic strategy for this often refractory and aggressive cancer.

  • Babu D
  • Blum AE
  • Chak A
  • Dawson D
  • Garman KS
  • Guda K
  • Hogue JA
  • Joseph P
  • Katabathula RM
  • Kresak AM
  • LaFramboise T
  • Martinez-Uribe O
  • Miao Y
  • Ravillah D
  • Singh S
  • Udhayakumar B
  • Varadan V
  • Venkitachalam S
  • Willis JE
PubMed ID
Appears In
Gastroenterology, 2022, 163 (5)