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Oncogene. 1996 Jun 6;12(11):2369-76.

Growth inhibitory concentrations of EGF induce p21 (WAF1/Cip1) and alter cell cycle control in squamous carcinoma cells.

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  • 1Molecular Carcinogenesis Group, Laboratory of Cellular Development & Oncology, National Institute of Dental Research, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Previous studies have reported inhibition of A431 squamous carcinoma cell growth by nanomolar concentrations of epidermal growth factor (EGF), a potent mitogen for cells of epithelial origin. In this study, we examined potential mechanisms through which inhibition of keratinocyte growth mediated by EGF might occur by analysing components of the cell cycle regulatory machinery in A431, HN6 and HN30 keratinocytes in the presence of growth inhibitory or growth stimulatory doses of EGF. Treatment of cells with 25 pM EGF produced an increase in [3H]thymidine incorporation in A431, HN6 and HN30 cells, with respect to control cultures. Exposure to 2.5 nM EGF reduced [3H]thymidine incorporation in A431 cells and HN6 cells to 11% and 70% of control levels, respectively, whereas HN30 cells continued to proliferate in the presence of EGF. [3H]thymidine incorporation assays carried out over 24 h revealed repression of DNA synthesis in A431 cells after 12 h exposure to 2.5 nM EGF compared to untreated cells. Flow cytometry studies demonstrated accumulation of cells in G0/G1 after addition of 2.5 nM, but not 25 pM EGF. Western blot analysis revealed elevation of p21 (WAF1/CIP1/SDI1) protein levels in A431 and HN6 cells under growth-inhibitory conditions. Stimulatory doses of EGF did not induce p21 in these cells. Northern blot hybridization demonstrated elevated levels of p21 mRNA within 4 h of exposure of A431 cells to 2.5 nM EGF, which remained elevated above basal levels at 24 h. In vitro kinase assays demonstrated temporal differences in CDK2 and CDK6 activities which were related to EGF concentration. Immunocomplex Western blotting demonstrated increased association of p21 with CDK2 and CDK6 in A431 cells treated with 2.5 nm EGF. Furthermore, temporal alterations in the association of PCNA with p21 and with CDK6 were observed. The data indicate that p21 is a likely mediator of EGF-induced growth-inhibition, probably through mechanisms involving sequestration of PCNA and inhibition of CDK activity.

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