Fascin is a globular actin cross-linking protein, which plays a major role in forming parallel actin bundles in cell protrusions and is found to be associated with tumor cell invasion and metastasis in various type of cancers including oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Previously, we have demonstrated that fascin regulates actin polymerization and thereby promotes cell motility in K8-depleted OSCC cells. In the present study we have investigated the role of fascin in tumor progression of OSCC.
To understand the role of fascin in OSCC development and/or progression, fascin was overexpressed along with vector control in OSCC derived cells AW13516. The phenotype was studied using wound healing, Boyden chamber, cell adhesion, Hanging drop, soft agar and tumorigenicity assays. Further, fascin expression was examined in human OSCC samples (N = 131) using immunohistochemistry and level of its expression was correlated with clinico-pathological parameters of the patients.
Fascin overexpression in OSCC derived cells led to significant increase in cell migration, cell invasion and MMP-2 activity. In addition these cells demonstrated increased levels of phosphorylated AKT, ERK1/2 and JNK1/2. Our in vitro results were consistent with correlative studies of fascin expression with the clinico-pathological parameters of the OSCC patients. Fascin expression in OSCC showed statistically significant correlation with increased tumor stage (P = 0.041), increased lymph node metastasis (P = 0.001), less differentiation (P = 0.005), increased recurrence (P = 0.038) and shorter survival (P = 0.004) of the patients.
In conclusion, our results indicate that fascin promotes tumor progression and activates AKT and MAPK pathways in OSCC-derived cells. Further, our correlative studies of fascin expression in OSCC with clinico-pathological parameters of the patients indicate that fascin may prove to be useful in prognostication and treatment of OSCC.
Keywords: Fascin, Cell migration, Invasion, Metastasis, OSCC