EGF-mediated EGFR endocytosis plays a crucial role in the attenuation of EGFR activation by sorting from early endosomes to late endosomes and transporting them into lysosomes for the final proteolytic degradation. We previously observed that cathepsin S (CTSS) inhibition induces tumour cell autophagy through the EGFR-mediated signalling pathway. In this study, we further clarified the relationship between CTSS activities and EGFR signalling regulation. Our results revealed that CTSS can regulate EGFR signalling by facilitating EGF-mediated EGFR degradation. CTSS inhibition delayed the EGFR degradation process and caused EGFR accumulation in the late endosomes at the perinuclear region, which provides spatial compartments for prolonged EGFR and sustained downstream signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 and AKT signalling. Notably, cellular apoptosis was markedly enhanced by combining treatment with the EGFR inhibitor Iressa and CTSS inhibitor 6r. The data not only reveal a biological role of CTSS in EGFR signalling regulation but also evidence a rationale for its clinical evaluation in the combination of CTSS and EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
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