Using microarray information from oro-pharyngeal data sets and results from primary human foreskin keratinocytes (HFK) expressing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)-16 E6/E7 proteins, we show that p63 expression regulates signalling molecules which initiate cell migration such as Src and focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and induce invasion in 3D-organotypic rafts; a phenotype that can be reversed by depletion of p63. Knockdown of Src or FAK in the invasive cells restored focal adhesion protein paxillin at cell periphery and impaired the cell migration. In addition, specific inhibition of FAK (PF573228) or Src (dasatinib) activities mitigated invasion and attenuated the expression/activity of matrix metalloproteinase 14 (MMP14), a pivotal MMP in the MMP activation cascade. Expression of constitutively active Src in non-invasive HFK expressing E6/E7 proteins upregulated the activity of c-Jun and MMP14, and induced invasion in rafts. Depletion of Src, FAK or AKT in the invasive cells normalised the expression/activity of c-Jun and MMP14, thus implicating the Src-FAK/AKT/AP-1 signalling in MMP14-mediated extra-cellular matrix remodelling. Up-regulation of Src, AP-1, MMP14 and p63 expression was confirmed in oro-pharyngeal cancer. Since p63 transcriptionally regulated expression of many of the genes in this signalling pathway, it suggests that it has a central role in cancer progression.
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