Functional studies of *Ras and Bcl-2 oncoproteins in keratinocyte homeostasis and multistep skin carcinogenesis

Sangjun Lee, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


To assess the effect of deregulated Ha-ras and bcl-2, individually and in combination on epidermal keratinocyte homeostasis and during multistep skin carcinogenesis, we generated skin-specific transgenic mice and keratinocyte transfectants constitutively expressing oncogenic Ha-ras and bcl-2 proteins. The deregulated Ha-ras and bcl-2 expression contributing to homeostatic imbalances in the skin had an additive effect on the probability of tumor development. They were also cooperative in incidence, growth, and latency of tumor formation, and they exhibited synergistic cooperation in malignant transformation of benign papillomas. To explain the homeostatic imbalances by Ha-ras and bcl-2 overexpression in the skin, we investigated the three major cellular processes of proliferation, cell death, and differentiation. Epidermal expression of Bcl-2 retarded keratinocyte proliferation in the epidermis of neonatal mice compared with results for control littermates. Constitutive expression of Ha-ras increased keratinocyte proliferation, and co-expression of bcl-2 modestly suppressed the ras-mediated abnormal proliferation of neonatal keratinocytes. Bcl-2 proteins in keratinocytes protected UV-treated cells from apoptotic cell death regardless of oncogenic ras expression in both non-neoplastic neonatal epidermis and human keratinocyte cell lines. The spontaneous apoptotic index (AI) was also lower in papillomas constitutively expressing bcl-2 compared with the ones that developed in control mice. Ras-overexpressing epidermis, including that in ras/bcl-2 double transgenic mice, had abnormal differentiation patterns compared with controls. The oncogenic ras protein had alterations in both epidermal distribution and the extent of cytokeratin 14 and involucrin expression. Abnormal expression of the hyperproliferation marker cytokeratin 6 and modest down regulation of cytokeratin 1 were also detected. Late appearance of filaggrin was another abnormal phenotype of the ras-expressing epidermis. Overexpression of bcl-2 had no effect on epidermal differentiation. Together, these findings suggest that constitutive expression of oncogenic Ha-ras and bcl-2 are important determinants of epidermal proliferation, viability and differentiation. In summary, our results demonstrated that the disruption of epidermal homeostasis by overexpressed ras and bcl-2 predisposes to hyperplastic growth of the epidermis and to papilloma development and that these proteins with distinct mechanisms for oncogenesis are functionally synergistic for malignant transformation of chemically induced skin carcinogenesis.

Subject Area

Oncology|Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Lee, Sangjun, "Functional studies of *Ras and Bcl-2 oncoproteins in keratinocyte homeostasis and multistep skin carcinogenesis" (2004). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3138880.