Stress-induced NQO1 controls stability of C/EBPα against 20S proteasomal degradation to regulate p63 expression with implications in protection against chemical-induced skin cancer.

PMID 22249251


Previously, we have shown a role of cytosolic NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) in the stabilization of p63 against 20S proteasomal degradation resulting in thinning of the epithelium and chemical-induced skin cancer (Oncogene (2011) 30, 1098-1107). Current studies have demonstrated that NQO1 control of CCAAT-enhancer binding protein (C/EBPα) against 20S proteasomal degradation also contributes to the upregulation of p63 expression and protection. Western and immunohistochemistry analysis revealed that disruption of the NQO1 gene in mice and mouse keratinocytes led to degradation of C/EBPα and loss of p63 gene expression. p63 promoter mutagenesis, transfection and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays identified a C/EBPα-binding site between nucleotide position -185 and -174 that bound to C/EBPα and upregulated p63 gene expression. Co-immunoprecipitation and immunoblot analysis demonstrated that 20S proteasomes directly interacted and degraded C/EBPα. NQO1 direct interaction with C/EBPα led to stabilization of C/EBPα against 20S proteasomal degradation. NQO1 protection of C/EBPα required binding of NADH with NQO1. Exposure of skin and keratinocytes to the chemical stress agent benzo(a)pyrene led to induction of NQO1 and stabilization of C/EBPα protein, resulting in an increase in p63 RNA and protein in wild-type but not in NQO1-/- mice. Collectively, the current data combined with previous data suggest that stress induction of NQO1 through both stabilization of C/EBPα and increase in p63 and direct stabilization of p63 controls keratinocyte differentiation, leading to protection against chemical-induced skin carcinogenesis. The studies are significant as 2-4% human individuals are homozygous and 23% are heterozygous for the NQO1P187S mutation and might be susceptible to stress-induced skin diseases.