Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), an essential developmental program, is involved in tumor progression. ΔNp63, a homolog of p53, is associated with the EMT program, but the detailed mechanism remains to be elucidated. In this study, we investigated the role of ΔNp63 in EMT during progression of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Five OSCC cell lines and specimens from 78 patients with OSCC were used. The expressions of ΔNp63, p63α, p63β and epithelial markers (cytokeratins 5 and 14) was detected in the OSCC cells, but not in SQUU-B cells (high metastatic potential). E-cadherin was expressed in all OSCC cells. Mesenchymal markers were strongly expressed in the SQUU-B cells. Knockdown of endogenous ΔNp63 in HSC-2 cells induced morphological changes to the spindle shape, decreased the expression of epithelial markers, increased the expression of mesenchymal markers, increased migration and reduced proliferation. By contrast, SQUU-B cells overexpressing ΔNp63β showed changed their morphology from stromal cell-like to epithelial cells. However, E-cadherin expression was not affected by ΔNp63 knockdown or overexpression. Immunohistochemical staining revealed that cancer cells expressing vimentin were found at the invasive front in the OSCC specimens. The intensity of ΔNp63 expression was also decreased in these cells. Interestingly, the vimentin positivity or decreased intensity of ΔNp63 was positively associated with metastases and poor prognosis in the OSCC patients. These results indicated that ΔNp63 downregulation in cancer cells induces a mesenchymal phenotype that is related to tumor progression of OSCC.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research