Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Elsa Flores

Committee Member

Dr. Jeffrey Rosen

Committee Member

Dr. Pierre McCrea

Committee Member

Dr. Dihua Yu

Committee Member

Dr. Guillermina Lozano


MicroRNAs play roles in various biological processes like development, tumorigenesis, metastasis and pluripotency. My thesis work has demonstrated roles for p63, a p53 family member, in the upstream regulation of microRNA biogenesis. The p63 gene has a complex gene structure and has multiple isoforms. The TAp63 isoforms contain an acidic transcription activation domain. The ΔNp63 isoforms, lack the TA domain, but have a proline rich region critical for gene transactivation. To understand the functions of these isoforms, the Flores lab generated TAp63 and ΔNp63 conditional knock out mice. Using these mice and tissues and cells from these mice we have found that TAp63 transcriptionally regulates Dicer while ΔNp63 transcriptionally regulates DGCR8. TAp63 -/- mice are highly tumor prone. These mice develop metastatic mammary adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and lung adenocarcinomas to distant sites including the liver, lungs, and brain. I found that TAp63 suppresses metastasis by transcriptionally activating Dicer. TAp63 and Dicer levels were very low or lost in high grade human tumors like mammary adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and lung adenocarcinomas. Expression of Dicer in these tumor cell lines reduced their invasiveness. Using ΔNp63 -/- mice, I found that ΔNp63 transcriptionally activates DGCR8, resulting in a miRNA profile that is critical to reprogram cells to pluripotency. Analysis of epidermal cells derived from ΔNp63 -/- mice revealed that these cells expressed markers of pluripotency, including Sox2, Oct 4 and Nanog; however, genome-wide analysis revealed a novel profile of genes that are common between ΔNp63 -/- epidermal cells and embryonic stem cells. I also found that mouse cells depleted of ΔNp63 form chimeric mice and teratomas in SCID mice, demonstrating that ΔNp63 deficient cells are pluripotent. Further, I found that restoration of DGCR8 in ΔNp63 -/- epidermal cells reduces their pluripotency and induces terminal differentiation. I also demonstrated that iMS (induced multipotent stem) cells could be generated using human keratinocytes by knockdown of ∆Np63 or DGCR8. Taken together, my work has placed p63 and its isoforms at a critical node in controlling miRNA biogenesis.


microRNA, p63, tumorigeneis, iPS cells, Dicer, DGCR8