Epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFr TKIs) are first-line therapies for various cancers, and cause dose-limiting severe diarrhea in many patients. We hypothesized that diarrhea caused by EGFr TKIs might reflect actions on epithelial transport, barrier function, or both, which we tested using cell cultures including murine and human enteroid-derived monolayers (EDMs), analyzed using electrophysiological and other relevant methods. EGFr TKIs (such as afatinib, erlotinib, and osimertinib) reversed the acute inhibitory effect of EGF on chloride secretion induced by carbachol (CCh) across T84 human colonic epithelial cells, which correlated with the diarrhea-inducing effect of each agent clinically. EGFr TKIs also reduced transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER), whereas co-treatment with CCh delayed the decrease in TEER compared with that of cells co-treated with EGF. Furthermore, afatinib and erlotinib prevented EGF- or CCh-induced EGFr phosphorylation. EGFr TKIs also suppressed phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk)1/2 in response to EGF, whereas they had weaker effects on CCh-induced Erk1/2 phosphorylation. In human EDMs, EGF potentiated ion transport induced by CCh, whereas afatinib reversed this effect. The ability of EGFr TKIs to reverse the effects of EGF on calcium-dependent chloride secretion could contribute to the diarrheal side effects of these agents, and their disruption of epithelial barrier dysfunction is likely also pathophysiologically significant. CCh-activated Erk1/2 phosphorylation was relatively insensitive to EGFr TKIs and delayed the deleterious effects of EGFr TKIs on barrier function. These findings confirm and extend those of other authors, and may be relevant to designing strategies to overcome the diarrheal side effects of EGFr TKIs.
© 2020 The Authors. Physiological Reports published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Physiological Society and the American Physiological Society.