The sequence of the human epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor shows great homology with the avian erythroblastosis virus v-erb B oncogene, raising the possibility that the receptor gene is identical to the c-erb B protooncogene. Human A431 epidermoid carcinoma cells, which have an unusually high number of EGF receptors, were examined to determine whether elevated EGF receptor levels correlate with gene amplification. Southern blots of genomic DNA's from A431 and other human cell lines were probed with either a v-erb B gene fragment or a human EGF receptor complementary DNA clone (pE7), previously isolated from an A431 complementary DNA library. When either probe was used to analyze Eco RI- or Hind III-generated DNA fragments, EGF receptor DNA sequences were amplified about 30-fold in A431. Differences in the banding pattern of A431 DNA fragments relative to normal fibroblast DNA indicate the occurrence of a rearrangement in the region of the receptor gene. Furthermore, A431 cells contain a characteristic, prominent 2.9-kilobase RNA. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that, in A431 cells, gene amplification, possibly associated with a translocation event, may result in the overproduction of EGF receptor protein or the appearance of the transformed phenotype (or both).

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