The p53 homologue ΔNp63α is overexpressed and inhibits apoptosis in a subset of human squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). Here, we report that in normal keratinocytes overexpressing ΔNp63α and in human squamous carcinoma cells, ΔNp63α physically associates with phosphorylated, transcriptionally active nuclear c-Rel, a nuclear factor-κB family member, resulting in increased c-Rel nuclear accumulation. This accumulation and the associated enhanced proliferation driven by elevated ΔNp63α are attenuated by c-Rel small interfering RNA or overexpression of mutant IκBαM, indicating that c-Rel-containing complex formation is critical to the ability of elevated ΔNp63α to maintain proliferation in the presence of growth arresting signals. Consistent with a role in growth regulation, ΔNp63α-c-Rel complexes bind a promoter motif and repress the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21WAF1 in both human squamous carcinoma cells and normal keratinocytes overexpressing ΔNp63α. The relationship between ΔNp63α and activated c-Rel is reflected in their strong nuclear staining in the proliferating compartment of primary head and neck SCC. This is the first report indicating that high levels of ΔNp63α interact with activated c-Rel in keratinocytes and SCC, thereby promoting uncontrolled proliferation, a key alteration in the pathogenesis of cancers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research