Cancer-associated arginine-to-histidine mutations confer a gain in pH sensing to mutant proteins

Katharine A. White, Diego Garrido Ruiz, Zachary A. Szpiech, Nicolas B. Strauli, Ryan D. Hernandez, Matthew P. Jacobson, Diane L. Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The intracellular pH (pHi) of most cancers is constitutively higher than that of normal cells and enhances proliferation and cell survival. We found that increased pHi enabled the tumorigenic behaviors caused by somatic arginine-to-histidine mutations, which are frequent in cancer and confer pH sensing not seen with wild-type proteins. Experimentally raising the pHi increased the activity of R776H mutant epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR-R776H), thereby increasing proliferation and causing transformation in fibroblasts. An Arg-to-Gly mutation did not confer these effects.Molecular dynamics simulations of EGFR suggested that decreased protonation of His776 at high pH causes conformational changes in the αC helix that may stabilize the active form of the kinase. An Argto- His, but not Arg-to-Lys, mutation in the transcription factor p53 (p53-R273H) decreased its transcriptional activity and attenuated the DNA damage response in fibroblasts and breast cancer cells with high pHi. Lowering pHi attenuated the tumorigenic effects of both EGFR-R776H and p53-R273H. Our data suggest that some somatic mutations may confer a fitness advantage to the higher pHi of cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaam9931
JournalScience signaling
Issue number495
StatePublished - Sep 5 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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