Purpose: We investigated the role of candidate tumor suppressor and proapoptotic WOX1 (also named WWOX, FOR, or WWOXv1) in UVB-induced apoptosis and formation of cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). Experimental Design: Expression of WOX1 and family proteins (WWOX) in human primary cutaneous SCCs was examined by immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, and reverse transcription-PCR. UVB irradiation - induced WOX1 activation (Tyr33 phosphorylation and nuclear translocation), apoptosis, and cutaneous SCC formation were examined both in vitro and in vivo. Results: Dp-regulation of human WOX1, isoform WOX2, and Tyr33 phosphorylation occurred during normal keratinocyte differentiation before cornification and death. Interestingly, significant reduction of these proteins and Tyr33 phosphorylation was observed in nonmetastatic and metastatic cutaneous SCCs (P < 0.001), but without down-regulation of WWOX mRNA (P > 0.05 versus normal controls), indicating a translational blockade of WWOX mRNA to protein. During acute exposure of hairless mice to UVB, WOX1 was up-regulated and activated in epidermal cells in 24 hours. In parallel with the clinical findings in humans, chronic UVB-treated mice developed cutaneous SCCs in 3 months, with significant reduction of WOX1 and Tyr33 phosphorylation and, again, without down-regulation of WWOX mRNA. Human SCC-25 and HaCaT cells were transfected with small interfering RNA - targeting WOX1 and shown to resist UVB-induced WOX1 expression, activation, and apoptosis. Conclusions: WOX1 is essential for UVB-induced apoptosis and likely to be involved in the terminal differentiation of normal keratinocytes. During UVB-induced cutaneous SCC, epidermal cells have apparently prevented the apoptotic pressure from overexpressed WOX1 by shutting down the translation machinery for WWOX mRNA.
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