Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) accounts for over 90% of oral cancers and causes considerable morbidity and mortality. Epigenetic deregulation is a common mechanism underlying carcinogenesis. DNA methylation deregulation is the epigenetic change observed during the transformation of normal cells to precancerous and eventually cancer cells. This study investigated the DNA methylation patterns of PTK6 during the development of OSCC. Bisulfite genomic DNA sequencing was performed to determine the PTK6 methylation level. OSCC animal models were established to examine changes in PTK6 expression in the different stages of OSCC development. The DNA methylation of PTK6 was decreased during the development of OSCC. The mRNA and protein expression of PTK6 was increased in OSCC cell lines compared with human normal oral keratinocytes. In mice, the methylation level of PTK6 decreased after treatment with 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide and arecoline, and the mRNA and protein expression of PTK6 was increased. PTK6 hypomethylation can be a diagnostic marker of OSCC. Upregulation of PTK6 promoted the proliferation, migration, and invasion of OSCC cells. PTK6 promoted carcinogenesis and metastasis by increasing STAT3 phosphorylation and ZEB1 expression. The epigenetic deregulation of PTK6 can serve as a biomarker for the early detection of OSCC and as a treatment target.
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