Keratinocyte p38δ loss inhibits Ras-induced tumor formation, while systemic p38δ loss enhances skin inflammation in the early phase of chemical carcinogenesis in mouse skin

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Molecular carcinogenesis








knockout mice; orthotopic skin grafts; p38α; p38δ; skin inflammation


p38δ expression and/or activity are increased in human cutaneous malignancies, including invasive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and head and neck SCC, but the role of p38δ in cutaneous carcinogenesis has not been well-defined. We have reported that mice with germline loss of p38δ exhibited a reduced susceptibility to skin tumor development compared with wild-type mice in the two-stage 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)/12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) chemical skin carcinogenesis model. Here, we report that p38δ gene ablation inhibited the growth of tumors generated from v-ras(Ha) -transformed keratinocytes in skin orthografts to nude mice, indicating that keratinocyte-intrinsic p38δ is required for Ras-induced tumorigenesis. Gene expression profiling of v-ras(Ha) -transformed p38δ-null keratinocytes revealed transcriptional changes associated with cellular responses linked to tumor suppression, such as reduced proliferation and increased differentiation, cell adhesion, and cell communications. Notably, a short-term DMBA/TPA challenge, modeling the initial stages of chemical skin carcinogenesis treatment, elicited an enhanced inflammation in p38δ-null skin compared with skin of wild-type mice, as assessed by measuring the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including IL-1β, IL-6, IL-17, and TNFα. Additionally, p38δ-null skin and p38δ-null keratinocytes exhibited increased p38α activation and signaling in response to acute inflammatory challenges, suggesting a role for p38α in stimulating the elevated inflammatory response in p38δ-null skin during the initial phases of the DMBA/TPA treatment compared with similarly treated p38δ(+/+) skin. Altogether, our results indicate that p38δ signaling regulates skin carcinogenesis not only by keratinocyte cell-autonomous mechanisms, but also by influencing the interaction between between the epithelial compartment of the developing skin tumor and its stromal microenvironment.

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