Cell-type-specific roles for COX-2 in UVB-induced skin cancer

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In human tumors, and in mouse models, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) levels are frequently correlated with tumor development/burden. In addition to intrinsic tumor cell expression, COX-2 is often present in fibroblasts, myofibroblasts and endothelial cells of the tumor microenvironment, and in infiltrating immune cells. Intrinsic cancer cell COX-2 expression is postulated as only one of many sources for prostanoids required for tumor promotion/progression. Although both COX-2 inhibition and globalCox-2gene deletion ameliorate ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced SKH-1 mouse skin tumorigenesis, neither manipulation can elucidate the cell type(s) in which COX-2 expression is required for tumorigenesis; both eliminate COX-2 activity in all cells. To address this question, we createdCox-2flox/floxmice, in which theCox-2gene can be eliminated in a cell-type-specific fashion by targeted Cre recombinase expression.Cox-2deletion in skin epithelial cells of SKH-1Cox-2flox/flox;K14Cre+mice resulted, following UVB irradiation, in reduced skin hyperplasia and increased apoptosis. Targeted epithelial cellCox-2deletion also resulted in reduced tumor incidence, frequency, size and proliferation rate, altered tumor cell differentiation and reduced tumor vascularization. Moreover,Cox-2flox/flox;K14Cre+papillomas did not progress to squamous cell carcinomas. In contrast,Cox-2deletion in SKH-1Cox-2flox/flox;LysMCre+myeloid cells had no effect on UVB tumor induction. We conclude that (i) intrinsic epithelial COX-2 activity plays a major role in UVB-induced skin cancer, (ii) macrophage/myeloid COX-2 plays no role in UVB-induced skin cancer and (iii) either there may be another COX-2-dependent prostanoid source(s) that drives UVB skin tumor induction or there may exist a COX-2-independent pathway(s) to UVB-induced skin cancer.

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