Elevated Bmi-1 expression is associated with dysplastic cell transformation during oral carcinogenesis and is required for cancer cell replication and survival

Br J Cancer. 2007 Jan 15;96(1):126-33. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6603529. Epub 2006 Dec 19.


Bmi-1 is a polycomb group protein that was identified as c-myc cooperating oncogene in murine lymphomagenesis. The current study was undertaken to determine the role of Bmi-1 in human oral carcinogenesis. Bmi-1 protein and RNA expression levels were markedly enhanced in the cells of oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC) compared with that of normal human oral keratinocytes (NHOK). Enhanced-Bmi-1 expression was also detected in situ in the archived oral mucosal tissues with cancerous and precancerous histopathology, including that of mild epithelial dysplasia. Thus, Bmi-1 expression occurs at a very early stage in oral carcinogenesis. To determine the biological role of Bmi-1 in cell proliferation, endogenous Bmi-1 was knocked down in actively proliferating SCC4 cells and NHOK by RNA interference. After Bmi-1 knockdown, cell replication was severely retarded. However, the expression of p16(INK4A), a known cellular target of Bmi-1, was not changed in cells with or without Bmi-1 knockdown. Furthermore, Bmi-1 knockdown in HOK-16B-BaP-T cells, in which the p16(INK4A)/pRb pathway was abrogated, led to immediate arrest of replication and loss of viable cells. Thus, our data suggest that Bmi-1 may act through p16(INK4A)-independent pathways to regulate cellular proliferation during oral cancer progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Gene Amplification
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Mouth Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nuclear Proteins / chemistry
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 1
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / chemistry
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • BMI1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 1