The stress-activated kinase p38 plays key roles in tumor suppression and induction of tumor cell dormancy. However, the mechanisms behind these functions remain poorly understood. Using computational tools, we identified a transcription factor (TF) network regulated by p38α/β and required for human squamous carcinoma cell quiescence in vivo. We found that p38 transcriptionally regulates a core network of 46 genes that includes 16 TFs. Activation of p38-induced the expression of the TFs p53 and BHLHB3, while inhibiting c-Jun and FoxM1 expression. Furthermore, induction of p53 by p38 was dependent on c-Jun down-regulation. Accordingly, RNAi down-regulation of BHLHB3 or p53 interrupted tumor cell quiescence, while down-regulation of c-Jun or FoxM1 or overexpression of BHLHB3 in malignant cells mimicked the onset of quiescence. Our results identify components of the regulatory mechanisms driving p38-induced cancer cell quiescence. These may regulate dormancy of residual disease that usually precedes the onset of metastasis in many cancers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research