Regulation of apoptosis during the pathogenesis of non-melanoma skin cancer

Julio Garcia Rodriguez-Villanueva, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Previous studies from our lab have shown distinctive patterns of expression of bcl-2 gene family members in human nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC). To further evaluate the significance of these observations and to study the effects of cell death deregulation during skin carcinogenesis, we generated a transgenic mouse model (HK1.bcl-2) using the human keratin 1 promoter to target the expression of a human bcl-2 minigene to the epidermis. Transgenic protein expression was confirmed in all the layers of the epidermis except the stratum corneum using immunohistochemistry. Multifocal epidermal hyperplasia, without associated hyperkeratosis, was observed in newborn HK1.bcl-2 mice. Immunofluorescence staining using monoclonal antibodies specific for a variety of differentiation markers revealed aberrant expression of keratin 6 (K6) in the transgenic epidermis. Epidermal proliferative indexes, assessed by anti-BrdUrd immunofluorescence staining, were similar in control and transgenic newborn mice, but suprabasal proliferating cells were seen within the hyperplastic areas of the transgenic mouse skin. Spontaneous apoptotic indices of the epidermis were similar in both control and HK1.bcl-2 transgenic newborn mice, however, after UV-B irradiation, the number of "sunburn cells" was significantly higher in the control compared to the HK1.bcl-2 transgenic animals. Adult HK1.bcl-2 and control littermate mice were used in UV-B and chemical carcinogenesis protocols including DMBA + TPA. UV-B irradiated control and HK1.bcl-2 mice had comparable incidence of tumors than the controls, but the mean latency period was significantly shorter in the HK1.bcl-2 transgenic. Both control and transgenic animals included in chemical carcinogenesis protocols required application of both the initiating (DMBA) and promoting (TPA) agents to develop tumors. The frequency, number, and latency of tumor formation was similar in both groups of animals, however, HK1.bcl-2 mice exhibited a rate of conversion from benign papilloma to carcinoma 2.5 times greater than controls. Similar carcinogenesis experiments were performed using newborn mice. HK1.bcl-2 mice treated with UV-B plus TPA have a three fold greater incidence of tumor formation compared to controls littermates. HK1.bcl-2 transgenic animals also exhibited a shorter latency for papilloma formation when treated with DMBA plus TPA. HK1.bcl-2/v-Ha-ras double transgenic mice shared phenotypic features of both HK1.v-Ha-ras and HK1.bcl-2 transgenic mice, and exhibited focal areas of augmented hyperplasia. These double transgenic mice were susceptible to tumor formation by treatment with TPA alone. Cultures of primary keratinocytes were established from control, HK1.bcl-2, HK1.Ha-ras, and HK1.bcl-2/v-Ha-ras newborn mice. Cell viability was determined after exposure of the cells to UV-B irradiation, DMBA, TPA, or TGF-$\beta$1. Internucleosomal DNA fragmentation ("ladders") and morphological cellular changes compatible with apoptotic cell death were observed after the application of all these agents. HK1.bcl-2 keratinocytes were resistant to cell death induction by all of these agents except TGF-$\beta$1. HK1.Ha-ras cells had a higher spontaneous rate of cell death which could be compensated by co-expression of bcl-2. These findings suggest that bcl-2 dependent cell death suppression may be an important component of multistep skin carcinogenesis.

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Recommended Citation

Rodriguez-Villanueva, Julio Garcia, "Regulation of apoptosis during the pathogenesis of non-melanoma skin cancer" (1997). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9717017.