The ErbB tyrosine kinase receptor family plays an important role in normal cellular growth and differentiation. In addition, ErbB receptor family members are commonly amplified and overexpressed in various human neoplasms and tumor-derived cell lines, where it is believed that increased signalling as a result of receptor overexpression may play an important role in oncogenesis. Consequently, ErbB receptor family members are being investigated rigorously as potential biomarkers of cancer and as therapeutic targets in malignant tissues. Numerous studies now demonstrate the existence of 'soluble' ErbB (sErbB) analogs in normal and cancerous tissues. These sErbB proteins embody the extracellular domain (ECD) of the receptor only; they are generated by either proteolytic cleavage or from truncated, alternatively spliced mRNA transcripts. Recently, we have identified an alternate transcript of the human c-erbB1 (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) proto-oncogene from placenta that encodes a sErbB1 protein of 60-kDa. This protein, p60 sErbB1, is glycosylated and secreted when expressed in transfected tissue culture cells in vitro. Although 'soluble' receptor analogs may play important physiological roles in intercellular communication, tissue morphogenesis, tissue regeneration and repair, and embryogenesis by inhibiting or stimulating specific mitogenic and pattern forming signals, their mechanism of action has not been thoroughly elucidated. To further characterize sErbB1 expression in human tissues and cell lines and to better understand their role in carcinogenesis and normal development, we have generated monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) toward specific peptide epitopes of ErbB1 extracellular subdomains III and IV. These antibody reagents are described here and should be useful experimental, preparative, analytical, diagnostic, and therapeutic reagents for the study of sErbB1 molecules in normal development and cancer.
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