Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are heterogeneous and aggressive skin tumors for which innovative, targeted therapies are needed. Here, we identify a p53/TACE pathway that is negatively regulated by FOS and show that the FOS/p53/TACE axis suppresses SCC by inducing differentiation. We found that epidermal Fos deletion in mouse tumor models or pharmacological FOS/AP-1 inhibition in human SCC cell lines induced p53 expression. Epidermal cell differentiation and skin tumor suppression were caused by a p53-dependent transcriptional activation of the metalloprotease TACE/ADAM17 (TNF-α–converting enzyme), a previously unknown p53 target gene that was required for NOTCH1 activation. Although half of cutaneous human SCCs display p53-inactivating mutations, restoring p53/TACE activity in mouse and human skin SCCs induced tumor cell differentiation independently of the p53 status. We propose FOS/AP-1 inhibition or p53/TACE reactivating strategies as differentiation-inducing therapies for SCCs.
Juan Guinea-Viniegra, Rainer Zenz, Harald Scheuch, María Jiménez, Latifa Bakiri, Peter Petzelbauer, Erwin F. Wagner