Inactivation of the p16INK4a tumor suppressor protein is critical for the development of human cancers, including human melanoma. However, the molecular basis of the protein's inhibitory effect on cancer development is not clear. Here we investigated a possible mechanism for p16 INK4a inhibition of neoplastic transformation and UV-induced skin cancer. We show that p16INK4a suppresses the activity of c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs) and that it binds to the glycine-rich loop of the N-terminal domain of JNK3. Although p16INK4a does not affect the phosphorylation of JNKs, its interaction with JNK inhibits c-Jun phosphorylation induced by UV exposure. This, in turn, interferes with cell transformation promoted by the H-Ras-JNK-c-Jun-AP-1 signaling axis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in part by the Hormel Foundation and grants from the US National Institutes of Health. We thank R. Davis for JNKs plasmids, C. Chen and Z. Kiss for Rb−/− and CHO-K1 cell lines and A. Hansen for secretarial assistance.