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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Oct 1;13(19):5680-91.

A novel nuclear factor-kappaB gene signature is differentially expressed in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas in association with TP53 status.

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Tumor Biology Section, Head and Neck Surgery Branch, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1419, USA.



To determine if gene signatures differentially expressed in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) are related to alterations in transcription factors nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and TP53 previously associated with decreased cell death, response to therapy, and worse prognosis.


Unique gene signatures expressed by HNSCC lines were identified by cDNA microarray, principal components, and cluster analyses and validated by quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) and in situ hybridization. Bioinformatic analysis of the promoters and ontogeny of these clustered genes was done. Expression of proteins encoded by genes of a putative NF-kappaB signature, NF-kappaB p65, and TP53 were examined in HNSCC tissue specimens by immunostaining. Predicted promoter binding and modulation of expression of candidate NF-kappaB genes and cell survival were evaluated by p65 chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and small interfering RNA (siRNA) knockdown.


Two groups of HNSCC exhibiting distinct gene signatures were identified: cluster A enriched for histone genes, with a higher prevalence of TP53 promoter binding motifs; and cluster B enriched for injury response genes with NF-kappaB regulatory motifs. Coexpression of cluster B proteins was observed with strong NF-kappaB phospho-p65 and weak TP53 staining, and NF-kappaB phospho-p65 was inversely associated with TP53 (P = 0.02). Promoter binding of the NF-kappaB signature genes was confirmed by p65 ChIP, and down-modulation of their expression and cell death were induced by p65 siRNA.


NF-kappaB promotes expression of a novel NF-kappaB-related gene signature and cell survival in HNSCC that weakly express TP53, a subset previously associated with inactivated wild-type TP53, greater resistance to chemoradiotherapy, and worse prognosis.

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