Loss of the tumor suppressor NDRG2 has been implicated in the development of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), acting by modulating PI3K/AKT-mediated dephosphorylation of PTEN at S380/S382/T383 (STT). Here we show that the majority of OSCC tumors with lymph node metastasis, a major prognostic factor, exhibit high levels of phosphorylated AKT-S473 and PTEN-STT and low levels of NDRG2 expression. In Ndrg2-deficient mice, which develop a wide range of tumors, we developed a model of OSCC by treatment with the tobacco surrogate 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide (4-NQO). In this model, both the number and size of OSCC tumours were increased significantly by Ndrg2 deficiency, which also increased invasion of cervical lymph nodes. 4-NQO treatment of human OSCC cell lines exhibiting low NDRG2 expression induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition via activation of NF-κB signalling. Conversely, ectopic expression of NDRG2 reversed the EMT phenotype and inhibited NF-κB signalling via suppression of PTEN-STT and AKT-S473 phosphorylation. Our results show how NDRG2 expression serves as a critical determinant of the invasive and metastatic capacity of OSCC.
- Received August 10, 2016.
- Revision received January 11, 2017.
- Accepted January 16, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.