Cellular senescence functions as a tumor suppressor that protects against cancer progression. α-Catulin, an α-catenin-related protein, is reported to have tumorigenic potential because it regulates the nuclear factor-B (NF-κB) pathway, but little is known about its clinical relevance and the mechanism through which it regulates cancer progression. Here, we found that α-catulin mRNA levels were significantly upregulated in cancer cell lines and clinical oral squamous cell carcinomas, which positively correlated with tumor size (P=0.001) and American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) stage (P=0.004). α-Catulin knockdown in the OC2 and A549 cancer cell lines dramatically decreased cell proliferation and contributed to cellular senescence, and inhibited OC2 xenograft growth. Mechanistic dissection showed that α-catulin depletion strongly induced the DNA-damage response (DDR) in both cell lines, via a p53/p21-dependent pathway in A549 cells, but a p53/p21-independent pathway in OC2 cells carrying mutant p53. Global gene expression analysis revealed that α-catulin knockdown altered cell-cycle regulation and DDR pathways at the presenescent stage as well as significantly downregulate several crucial genes related to mitotic chromosome condensation, DDR and DNA repair systems, which suggests that its depletion-induced cellular senescence might be caused by chromosome condensation failures, severe DNA damage and impaired DNA repair ability. Our study provides evidence that α-catulin promotes tumor growth by preventing cellular senescence and suggests that downregulating α-catulin may be a promising therapeutic approach for cancer treatment.
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