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Transcription factor activator protein-1 (AP-1) super-family is known to modulate expression of array of genes during development of many cancers and considered as an important target for modern therapeutics. But the role of AP-1 during development of human oral cancers is still poorly understood. Because oral cancer is one of the most common cancers in India and south-east Asia, we studied the activation and expression pattern of AP-1 family of proteins and mRNA in different stages of oral carcinogenesis. Gel-shift assay, western blotting, immunohistochemistry and northern blotting have been used to assess the binding activity and expression pattern of AP-1 family (c-Jun, JunB, JunD, c-Fos, FosB, Fra-1 and Fra-2) proteins and mRNA transcripts in a total of 100 fresh oral tissue specimens comprising precancer (n= 40), cancer (n= 50) and healthy control (n= 10). Constitutive activation of AP-1 with concomitant upregulated expression of majority of AP-1 family of proteins and mRNA was observed in cancer cases. Interestingly, almost all precancerous cases showed JunD homodimers, whereas c-Fos/JunD was the most prevalent complex found in cancer tissues. The overexpression of EGFR mRNA, p50:p50/NF-κB homodimer formation, together with overexpression of pERK and c-Fos proteins in this study suggests an interesting cross talk between AP-1 and NF-κB pathways in oral cancers. Thus, this study demonstrates differential expression and activation of AP-1 super-family proteins in relation to severity of lesion and their crucial role in human oral carcinogenesis.