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Am J Pathol. 2003 Aug;163(2):723-32.

Down-regulation of nitric oxide synthase-2 and cyclooxygenase-2 pathways by p53 in squamous cell carcinoma.

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Department of Oto-Neuro-Ophthalmologic Surgery, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.


The goal of this study was to analyze the correlation between inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and COX-2 activities and p53 gene status in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) in vivo and in vitro. In a series of 43 HNSCCs we observed an up-regulation of both iNOS and COX-2 pathways in tumor tissues and both activities were correlated each other (rs = 0.612 and P = 0.0002). We also found that p53-mutated HNSCCs (25 cases, 58.1%) showed higher levels of iNOS activity and cGMP in comparison with wild-type p53 tumors (18 cases, 41.9%) (P = 0.0005 and P = 0.01), as well as higher iNOS immunohistochemical expression (P = 0.03). Analogously, higher PgE2 levels were documented in p53-mutated HNSCCs when compared with wild-type p53 tumors (P = 0.015) and COX-2 protein expression was higher in p53-mutated HNSCCs (P = 0.007). A431 cancer cells expressing a p53 temperature-sensitive mutant showed an approximately 1.9- and 2.6-fold decrease in spontaneous NO(2-)/NO(3-) and PgE2 synthesis at permissive temperature, respectively, when compared with the same cells at nonpermissive temperature (P <or= 0.001). Basal levels of iNOS and COX-2 proteins and mRNAs were markedly suppressed by restoration of p53 activity. Our results indicate that p53 gene mutation(s) may be responsible for iNOS and COX-2 up-regulation frequently observed in HNSCCs and suggest that restoration of wild-type p53 expression may interfere with tumor growth by inhibiting iNOS and COX-2 pathways.

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