The protective effect of p16(INK4a) in oral cavity carcinomas: p16(Ink4A) dampens tumor invasion-integrated analysis of expression and kinomics pathways

Mod Pathol. 2015 May;28(5):631-53. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2014.149. Epub 2014 Dec 19.


A large body of evidence shows that p16(INK4a) overexpression predicts improved survival and increased radiosensitivity in HPV-mediated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas.(OPSCC). Here we demonstrate that the presence of transcriptionally active HPV16 in oral cavity squamous cell carcinomas does not correlate with p16(INK4a) overexpression, enhanced local tumor immunity, or improved outcome. It is interesting that HPV-mediated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas can be categorized as having a 'nonaggressive' invasion phenotype, whereas aggressive invasion phenotypes are more common in HPV-negative squamous cell carcinomas. We have developed primary cancer cell lines from resections with known pattern of invasion as determined by our validated risk model. Given that cell lines derived from HPV-mediated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas are less invasive than their HPV-negative counterparts, we tested the hypothesis that viral oncoproteins E6, E7, and p16(INK4a) can affect tumor invasion. Here we demonstrate that p16(INK4a) overexpression in two cancer cell lines (UAB-3 and UAB-4), derived from oral cavity squamous cell carcinomas with the most aggressive invasive phenotype (worst pattern of invasion type 5 (WPOI-5)), dramatically decreases tumor invasiveness by altering expression of extracellular matrix remodeling genes. Pathway analysis integrating changes in RNA expression and kinase activities reveals different potential p16(INK4a)-sensitive pathways. Overexpressing p16(INK4a) in UAB-3 increases EGFR activity and increases MMP1 and MMP3 expression, possibly through STAT3 activation. Overexpressing p16(INK4a) in UAB-4 decreases PDGFR gene expression and reduces MMP1 and MMP3, possibly through STAT3 inactivation. Alternatively, ZAP70/Syk might increase MUC1 phosphorylation, leading to the observed decreased MMP1 expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / virology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Papillomavirus Infections
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transfection


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16