Background: The loss of AP-2alpha and increased activity of cAMP-responsive element binding (CREB) protein are two hallmarks of malignant progression of cutaneous melanoma. However, the molecular mechanism responsible for the loss of AP-2alpha during melanoma progression remains unknown.
Methodology/principal findings: Herein, we demonstrate that both inhibition of PKA-dependent CREB phosphorylation, as well as silencing of CREB expression by shRNA, restored AP-2alpha protein expression in two metastatic melanoma cell lines. Moreover, rescue of CREB expression in CREB-silenced cell lines downregulates expression of AP-2alpha. Loss of AP-2alpha expression in metastatic melanoma occurs via a dual mechanism involving binding of CREB to the AP-2alpha promoter and CREB-induced overexpression of another oncogenic transcription factor, E2F-1. Upregulation of AP-2alpha expression following CREB silencing increases endogenous p21(Waf1) and decreases MCAM/MUC18, both known to be downstream target genes of AP-2alpha involved in melanoma progression.
Conclusions/significance: Since AP-2alpha regulates several genes associated with the metastatic potential of melanoma including c-KIT, VEGF, PAR-1, MCAM/MUC18, and p21(Waf1), our data identified CREB as a major regulator of the malignant melanoma phenotype.