Tobacco carcinogen mediated up-regulation of AP-1 dependent pro-angiogenic cytokines in head and neck carcinogenesis

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Tobacco is notably genotoxic and associated with head and neck carcinogenesis. Cigarette carcinogens have the capacity to alter early response gene expression in tobacco-related malignancies via genes such as nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB). A number of early response gene activation events are also facilitated by fos/jun activator protein 1 (AP-1) associated pathways. In the present study, we hypothesize that tobacco products may induce microenvironment alterations, promoting angiogenesis and providing a permissive environment for head and neck cancer progression. In an in vitro analysis, we employed immortalized oral keratinocyte (HOK-16B) and laryngeal squamous carcinoma (UM-SCC-11A) cells to investigate interleukin (IL)-8 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induction by cigarette smoke condensate (CSC). IL-8 and VEGF expression is based on interactions between NFκB, AP-1, and NF-IL6. We identified at least 1.5-fold dose-dependent induction of AP-1, VEGF, and IL-8 promoter/reporter gene activity after 24h exposure to CSC. Next, we stably transfected UM-SCC-11A cells with A-Fos, a dominant negative AP-1 protein. Treatment with CSC of the A-Fos cell lines compared to empty vector controls significantly down-regulated AP-1, VEGF, and IL-8 promoter/reporter gene expression. We also performed ELISAs and discovered significant up-regulation of IL-8 and VEGF secretion by UMSCC 11A after treatment with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and CSC, which was down-regulated by the A-Fos dominant negative protein. We conclude tobacco carcinogens up-regulate AP-1 activity and AP-1 dependent IL-8 and VEGF gene expression in head and neck cancer. This up-regulation may promote an angiogenic phenotype favoring invasion in both premalignant and squamous cancer cells of the head and neck.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)668-679
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Carcinogenesis
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Activator protein 1
  • Cigarette smoke condensate
  • Head and neck cancer
  • IL-8
  • Tobacco carcinogens
  • VEGF


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