p73 induction by Abrus agglutinin facilitates Snail ubiquitination to inhibit epithelial to mesenchymal transition in oral cancer.
Background: Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a key step in oral cancer progression, is associated with invasion, metastasis, and therapy resistance, thus targeting the EMT represents a critical therapeutic strategy for the treatment of oral cancer metastasis. Our previous study showed that Abrus agglutinin (AGG), a plant lectin, induces both intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis to activate the tumor inhibitory mechanism. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the role of AGG in modulating invasiveness and stemness through EMT inhibition for the development of antineoplastic agents against oral cancer. Methods: The EMT- and stemness-related proteins were studied in oral cancer cells using Western blot analysis and fluorescence microscopy. The potential mechanisms of Snail downregulation through p73 activation in FaDu cells were evaluated using Western blot analysis, immunoprecipitation, confocal microscopy, and molecular docking analysis. Immunohistochemical staining of the tumor samples of AGG-treated FaDu-xenografted nude mice was performed. Results: At the molecular level, AGG-induced p73 suppressed Snail expression, leading to EMT inhibition in FaDu cells. Notably, AGG promoted the translocation of Snail from the nucleus to the cytoplasm in FaDu cells and triggered its degradation through ubiquitination. In this setting, AGG inhibited the interaction between Snail and p73 in FaDu cells, resulting in p73 activation and EMT inhibition. Moreover, in epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated FaDu cells, AGG abolished the upregulation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2 that plays a pivotal role in the upregulation of Snail to regulate the EMT phenotypes. In immunohistochemistry analysis, FaDu xenografts from AGG-treated mice showed decreased expression of Snail, SOX2, and vimentin and increased expression of p73 and E-cadherin compared with the control group, confirming EMT inhibition as part of its anticancer efficacy against oral cancer. Conclusion: In summary, AGG stimulates p73 in restricting EGF-induced EMT, invasiveness, and stemness by inhibiting the ERK/Snail pathway to facilitate the development of alternative therapeutics for oral cancer.