International journal of oncology

The cytoplasmic domain of N-cadherin modulates MMP‑9 induction in oral squamous carcinoma cells.

PMID 25175499


Oral squamous carcinoma is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, and one of the most common cancers in developing countries. Regional and distant metastases comprise the majority of cases at initial diagnosis and correlate with poor patient outcomes. Oral epithelia is one of many tissue types to exhibit a cadherin switch during tumor progression, in which endogenous cell adhesion proteins, such as E-cadherin, give way to those of mesenchymal origin. The mesenchymal cell adhesion protein N-cadherin is found at the invading front of oral squamous carcinomas and has been strongly correlated with poor patient prognosis. The goal of the present study was to elucidate the mechanism by which N-cadherin may increase extracellular matrix-associated proteolytic activity to facilitate invasiveness in oral tumor development. The overexpression of N-cadherin in two oral squamous carcinoma cell lines increased motility, invasive capacity and synthesis of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) in a manner that was independent of E-cadherin downregulation. The use of EN and NE chimeric cadherin molecules with reciprocally substituted cytoplasmic domains revealed that optimal induction of MMP-9 synthesis required the cytoplasmic region, but not the extracellular region, of N-cadherin. Utilizing an N-cadherin mutant with impaired p120 binding ability, we found that such mutation resulted in a 4-fold decrease in motility compared to wild-type N-cadherin, but did not affect either MMP-9 expression or motility-normalized invasion. Overexpression of wild-type N-cadherin produced a 27-fold increase in the transcriptional activity of β-catenin, concomitant with increases in MMP-9 transcription. These results suggest that N-cadherin may promote motility and invasiveness through distinct mechanisms, and that β-catenin may be an integral mediator of N-cadherin-dependent invasive signaling in oral epithelia.