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J Biol Chem. 2012 Jan 27;287(5):3581-90. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.294876. Epub 2011 Dec 12.

Chemokine receptor 7 (CCR7) gene expression is regulated by NF-κB and activator protein 1 (AP1) in metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of head and neck (SCCHN).

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Department of Immunology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.


The chemokine receptor CCR7 is a seven-transmembrane domain G-protein-coupled receptor that facilitates leukocyte migration to regional lymph nodes. Aberrant CCR7 expression in a number of human malignancies has been linked to pro-survival, -invasive, and -metastatic pathways. We demonstrate here that up-regulation of CCR7 in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) patient tumors correlates with lower survival because of metastatic disease. Because of this important oncogenic phenotype, we investigated the mechanisms that regulate CCR7 expression in these tumors. Interestingly, the inflammatory transcription factor NF-κB has been associated with a more aggressive SCCHN phenotype. Immunohistochemical staining of a SCCHN tumor cohort (n = 47) strongly linked NF-κB staining and CCR7 expression in SCCHN. Thus, we investigated whether NF-κB contributes to metastatic disease by promoting CCR7 expression in SCCHN tumor cells. We characterized four novel, potential NF-κB binding sites in the 1000-bp promoter region upstream of the CCR7 gene, using luciferase, ChIP, and EMSA. However, NF-κB inhibition only resulted in partial reduction in CCR7 expression, prompting consideration of other co-regulators of CCR7. Indeed, cooperation between NF-κB and AP1 transcription factors, which are often co-activated, is crucial to the regulation of CCR7 mRNA expression in metastatic SCCHN cells. Thus, our findings support an important biological role for inflammatory NF-κB and AP1 in the regulation of CCR7 expression in metastatic SCCHN. As such, CCR7, NF-κB, and AP1 could be potentially useful therapeutic targets in controlling the progression and metastasis of SCCHN tumors.

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