Early Growth Response 1-Dependent Downregulation of Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 and Mouse Double Minute 2 Attenuates Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Metastasis

Cell Physiol Biochem. 2018;50(5):1869-1881. doi: 10.1159/000494867. Epub 2018 Nov 5.


Background/aims: The functional relevance of early growth response-1 (EGR1) on cancer invasion remains controversial. The effect of EGR1 on the expression of MMP9, which is important for HNSCC invasion, is still disputed. There is no previous data showing the effect of EGR1 on mouse double minute 2 (MDM2), an enhancer of matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP9) expression. Our aim is to clarify the negative correlation between EGR1 expression and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) metastasis.

Methods: EGR1 mRNA and protein expressions were compared in normal and HNSCC tissues using The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) dataset analysis or immunohistochemistry (IHC), respectively. In vitro cell invasion was evaluated Matrigel invasion assay. EGR1-dependent inhibition of MDM2 transcription was assessed by promoter-luciferase assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP).

Results: TCGA data showed that EGR1 mRNA levels are significantly higher in normal oral tissues as compared with HNSCC tumor tissues (adjusted P = 1.64x10-16). In addition, nonmetastatic HNSCC tissues showed significantly higher EGR1 mRNA levels as compared with metastatic tissues (adjusted P = 0.023). IHC analysis showed that primary tumor tissues expressed significantly higher levels of nuclear EGR1 compared with paired metastatic lymph node tissues (P < 0.05). EGR1 overexpression downregulated MMP9 and MDM2 protein expression. Consistent with these observations, TCGA data analysis found significantly fewer metastatic patients among a subgroup of population presenting higher EGR1 expressions with lower MMP9 and/or MDM2.

Conclusion: Our data suggests that EGR1 prevents HNSCC metastasis through downregulation of MMP9 and MDM2. EGR1 might be a potential candidate to attenuate HNSCC metastasis.

Keywords: Early growth response1; Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; Matrix metalloproteinases; Mouse double minute 2 homolog; The Cancer Genome Atlas.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Down-Regulation*
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / genetics
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / metabolism*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / physiopathology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / genetics*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Binding
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / metabolism
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck


  • EGR1 protein, human
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1
  • MDM2 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9