Indexed on: 21 Jul '11Published on: 21 Jul '11Published in: Cancer research
Nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, where DNA-damaging ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun remains the major environmental risk factor. However, the critical genetic targets of UVB radiation are undefined. Here we show that attenuating PTEN in epidermal keratinocytes is a predisposing factor for UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice. In skin papilloma and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), levels of PTEN were reduced compared with skin lacking these lesions. Likewise, there was a reduction in PTEN levels in human premalignant actinic keratosis and malignant SCCs, supporting a key role for PTEN in human skin cancer formation and progression. PTEN downregulation impaired the capacity of global genomic nucleotide excision repair (GG-NER), a critical mechanism for removing UVB-induced mutagenic DNA lesions. In contrast to the response to ionizing radiation, PTEN downregulation prolonged UVB-induced growth arrest and increased the activation of the Chk1 DNA damage pathway in an AKT-independent manner, likely due to reduced DNA repair. PTEN loss also suppressed expression of the key GG-NER protein xeroderma pigmentosum C (XPC) through the AKT/p38 signaling axis. Reconstitution of XPC levels in PTEN-inhibited cells restored GG-NER capacity. Taken together, our findings define PTEN as an essential genomic gatekeeper in the skin through its ability to positively regulate XPC-dependent GG-NER following DNA damage.