Tumour necrosis factor-α(TNF-α) is a cytokine that can induce cell death of different cancers via a cellular cascade of proteases, the caspases. However, TNF-α has been detected in tumour and serum of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), and tumour cell lines derived from this environment often exhibit resistance to TNF-α-induced cell death. Cell death mediated by TNF-α and caspases may be inhibited by cytoprotective genes regulated by transcription factor nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB). We recently showed that NF-κB is constitutively activated in HNSCC, and that inhibition of NF-κB by expression of a nondegradable mutant inhibitor of NF-κB, IκBαM, markedly decreased survival and growth of HNSCC cells in vivo. In the present study, we examined the TNF-α sensitivity and response of HNSCC with constitutively active NF-κB, and of HNSCC cells in which NF-κB is inhibited by stable expression of a dominant negative mutant inhibitor, IκBαM. Human lines UM-SCC-9, 11B and 38, previously shown to exhibit constitutive activation of NF-κB, were found to be highly resistant to growth inhibition by up to 104 U/ml of TNF-α in 5 day MTT assay. These TNF-α resistant HNSCC lines expressed TNF receptor I, and exhibited constitutive and TNF-α-inducible activation of NF-κB as demonstrated by nuclear localization of NF-κB p65 by immunohistochemistry. UM-SCC-9 111 cells which stably expressed an inhibitor of NF-κB, IκBαm, were susceptible to TNF-α-induced growth inhibition. DNA cell cycle analysis revealed that TNF-α induced growth inhibition was associated with accumulation of cells with sub-G0/G1 DNA content. Cell death was demonstrated by trypan blue staining, and was blocked by caspase inhibitor. We conclude that HNSCC that exhibit constitutive and TNF-α-inducible activation of transcription factor NF-κB are resistant to TNF-α, and that inhibition of NF-κB sensitizes HNSCC to TNF-α caspase-mediated cytotoxicity. The demonstration of the role of activation of NF-κB in resistance of HNSCC to TNF-α may be helpful in the identification of potential targets for pharmacological, molecular and immune therapy of HNSCC. (C) 2000 Cancer Research Campaign.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Dr Inder Verma for providing the mutant Ik Ba M, and Drs Hans Schreiber, Keith Brown and James Battey for reading and commenting on the manuscript. Grant sponsor NIDCD; Intramural project number Z01-DC-00016; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholars Program
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Transcription factors