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Nerve growth factor receptor (NGFR, CD271, or p75NTR) is highly expressed in melanoma-initiating cells (MICs) and is critical for their proliferation and tumorigenesis, and yet the underlying mechanism(s) remain incompletely understood. We previously showed that NGFR inhibits p53 activity in a negative feedback manner in various cancer cells. Here we report that this feedback inhibition of p53 by NGFR plays an essential role in maintaining the sphere formation (stem-like phenotype) and proliferation of MICs, and in promoting MIC-derived melanoma growth in vivo. Knockdown of NGFR markedly reduced the size and number of spheroid formation of melanoma cells, which can be rescued by ectopically expressed NGFR. This reduction was also reversed by depleting p53. Consistently, knockdown of NGFR led to the suppression of MIC-derived xenograft tumor growth by inducing the p53 pathway. These results demonstrate that the NGFR-p53 feedback loop is essential for maintaining MIC stem-like phenotype and MIC-derived tumorigenesis, and further validates NGFR as a potential target for developing a molecule-based therapy against melanoma.


Leiwei Jiang, Shibo Huang, Jieqiong Wang, Yiwei Zhang, Yuqing Xiong, Shelya X Zeng, Hua Lu. Inactivating p53 is essential for nerve growth factor receptor to promote melanoma-initiating cell-stemmed tumorigenesis. Cell death & disease. 2020 Jul 20;11(7):550

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PMID: 32686661

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