The role of I[kappa]B kinase [alpha] in skin carcinogenesis
IKK[alpha] is a 85KD serine/threonine protein kinase and a subunit of the IKK complex, which contains IKK[alpha], IKK[beta], and IKK[gamma]. IKK[alpha] and IKK[beta] are highly conserved and they contain three functional domains of kinase domain, leucine zipper (LZ), and helix-loop-helix (HLH). Although IKK[alpha] and IKK[beta] can phosphorylate IκB proteins in vitro, IKK[alpha] and IKK[beta] have distinct physiological functions during mouse development. Genetic studies showed that IKK[alpha] is essential for embryonic skin development in mice. Mice deficient in IKK[alpha] display a hyperplastic epidermis that lacks terminal differentiation, resulting a death soon after birth because of the severely impaired skin. Recently, we reported a reduction in IKK[alpha] expression and identified somatic Ikk[alpha] mutations in a high proportion of poorly differentiated human squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) (Liu et al., 2006). The aim of this study is to investigate the novel role of IKK[alpha] in skin carcinogenesis. We firstly examined IKK[alpha] expression and Ikk[alpha] mutations in human SCCs and found a reduction of IKK[alpha] in poorly differentiated human SCCs and identified somatic Ikk[alpha] mutations in exon 15 of Ikk[alpha] in human SCCs. We then examined the susceptibility of Ikk[alpha] hemizygotes to chemical carcinogeninduced skin carcinogenesis. In this chemical carcinogen-induced skin carcinogenesis setting, 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) induces Ras mutations and 12-Otetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) promotes Ras-initiated cell proliferation. We found two times more papillomas and eleven times more carcinomas in Ikk[alpha superscript +/-] mice than in Ikk [alpha] superscript +/+] mice induced by DMBA/TPA. Ikk[alpha superscript +/-] mice developed larger and earlier tumors than did Ikk[alpha superscript +/+] mice. Poorly differentiated carcinomas expressed low levels of IKK[alpha]. Ninety five percent of the Ikk[alpha superscript +/-] carcinomas and 44% of the Ikk[alpha superscript +/-] papillomas lost the remaining wild type Ikk[alpha] allele. This result indicates that the remaining one wild type Ikk[alpha] allele is important for preventing malignant carcinoma conversion. Also Ikk[alpha] mutations were detected in these skin tumors. Reduced IKK[alpha] was found to enhance TPA-induced mitogenic and angiogenic activities in mouse skin. Taken together, these results suggest that reduction of IKK[alpha] expression provides a selective growth advantage, which cooperates with DMBA-initiated Ras activity to promote skin carcinogenesis. In addition, we observed a small group of FVB female Ikk [alpha superscript +/-] mice for 1.5 years and found that 12/ 24 mice developed various spontaneous tumors including mammary gland carcinomas, uterine and ovary tumors, and dermal fibrosacomas. Somatic Ikk[alpha] mutations, elevated IKK/ NF[subscript -k]B and extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK) activities and elevated cyclin D1 levels were detected in these spontaneous tumors. These results suggest that these molecular alterations may contribute to the development of these tumors although the precise role of the down-regulation of IKK in the development of the tumors remains to be determined. Overall, our data and other published results suggest that IKK[alpha] is a new tumor suppressor in men and mice.