Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are grouped into subcategories based on shared sequence and structural features. Human group C adenoviruses down-regulate EGF receptors, which are members of the class I family of RTKs, during the early stages of infection. Adenovirus appears to utilize a nonsaturable intracellular pathway since it causes EGF-R down-regulation even in cells that significantly overexpress EGF-R. Adenovirus-induced down-regulation is mediated by a small hydrophobic molecule coded for by the E3 early transcription region that has recently been localized to plasma membrane. Here we examine intracellular trafficking of other RTKs in adenovirus-infected cells, to better understand the molecular basis for the action of the E3 protein. Although p185c-neu, which is a class I RTK closely related to the EGF receptor, is down-regulated in cells expressing physiological concentrations of this molecule, it is not down-regulated in tumor cell lines that significantly overexpress p185c-neu. Cell surface receptors for insulin and IGF1, which are class II RTKs, are also reduced in cells expressing the E3 protein, although to a slightly lesser extent than the EGF receptor. Moreover, whereas EGF receptors are degraded between 3- and 9-h postinfection, insulin and IGF1 receptors are degraded between 6- and 12-h postinfection under identical conditions. In contrast to the class I and class II RTKs, there is no difference in the expression of the class III receptors for PDGF and aFGF in cells infected with a virus with an intact E3 region versus a virus mutant with an internal deletion in the relevant E3 gene. These results suggest that the E3 protein provides an internalization and degradative sorting signal for some class I and class II RTKs, although down-regulation of class II RTKs is somewhat less efficient. Molecular recognition of class I and class II RTKs during adenovirus infection may not be due strictly to amino acid structure, however, since EGF-R but not p185c-neu is down-regulated in cells where it is significantly overexpressed.

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