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ΔNp63α enhances the oncogenic phenotype of osteosarcoma cells by inducing the expression of GLI2

Ram Mohan Ram Kumar*, Michael M Betz, Bernhard Robl, Walter Born and Bruno Fuchs

Author Affiliations

Laboratory for Orthopaedic Research, Department of Orthopaedics, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:559  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-559

Published: 1 August 2014



ΔNp63, a splice variant of p63, is overexpressed and exhibits oncogenic activity in many cancers including pancreatic and breast cancer and promotes cell survival by inhibiting apoptosis. Despite its role in tumorigenesis, mechanistic activity of ΔNp63 mediated oncogenic function in osteosarcoma is poorly understood.


The expression levels of p63 isoforms in osteosarcoma cell lines were identified using quantitative techniques. Expression profiling using microarray, siRNA mediated loss-of-function, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were employed to identify novel ΔNp63α targets in p63-null osteosarcoma SaOS-2 cells that were engineered to express ΔNp63α. The phenotype of SaOS-2-ΔNp63α cells was assessed using wound-healing, colony formation, and proliferation assays.


The comparative expression analyses identified ΔNp63α as the predominant p63 isoform expressed by invasive OS cell lines. Phenotypic analyses of SaOS-2-ΔNp63α cells in vitro indicate that ΔNp63α imparted tumorigenic attributes upon tumor cells. Further, we show that in osteosarcoma cells ΔNp63α directly regulated the transcription factor GLI2, which is a component of the hedgehog signaling pathway, and that functional interactions between ΔNp63α and GLI2 confer oncogenic properties upon OS cells.


Here, we report that GLI2 is the novel target gene of ΔNp63α and that ΔNp63α-GLI2 crosstalk in osteosarcoma cells is a necessary event in osteosarcoma progression. Defining the exact mechanisms involved in this interaction that mediate the pathogenesis of osteosarcoma promises to identify targets for drug therapy.

Osteosarcoma; p63; ΔNp63α; GLI2