Human papillomavirus (HPV) oncoprotein E6 facilitates Calcineurin-Nuclear factor for activated T cells 2 (NFAT2) signaling to promote cellular proliferation in cervical cell carcinoma

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Abstract

The calcineurin-NFAT signaling pathway regulates cell proliferation, differentiation, and development in diverse cell types and organ systems. Deregulation of calcineurin-NFAT signaling has been reported in leukaemias and few solid tumors such as breast and colon. In the present study, we found elevated calcineurin protein levels and phosphatase activity in cervical cancer cell lines and depletion of the same attenuated cell proliferation. Additionally, nuclear levels of NFAT2, a downstream target of calcineurin, viz, was found elevated in human papillomavirus (HPV) infected cells, HeLa and SiHa, compared to the HPV negative cells, HaCaT and C33A, indicative of its higher DNA binding activity. The nuclear levels of both NFAT1 and NFAT3 remain unaltered implicating they have little role in cervical carcinogenesis. Similar to the in vitro studies, the HPV infected human squamous cell carcinoma specimens showed higher NFAT2 levels compared to the normal cervical epithelium. Depletion of NFAT2 by RNAi attenuated growth of SiHa cells. Overexpression of HPV16 oncoproteins viz, E6 and E7 increased NFAT2 expression levels and DNA binding activity, while knockdown of E6 by RNAi decreased the same. Briefly, we now report an activation of calcineurin-NFAT2 axis in cervical cancer and a novel role of HPV oncoprotein in facilitating NFAT2 dependent cell proliferation.

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