The urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) has a well-established role in cancer progression, but it has been little studied at earlier stages of cancer initiation. Here, we show that uPAR deficiency in the mouse dramatically reduces susceptibility to the classical two-stage protocol of inflammatory skin carcinogenesis. uPAR genetic deficiency decreased papilloma formation and accelerated keratinocyte differentiation, effects mediated by Notch1 hyperactivation. Notably, Notch1 inhibition in uPAR-deficient mice rescued their susceptibility to skin carcinogenesis. Clinically, we found that human differentiated keratoacanthomas expressed low levels of uPAR and high levels of activated Notch1, with opposite effects in proliferating tumors, confirming the relevance of the observations in mice. Furthermore, we found that TACE dependent activation of Notch1 in basal kerantinocytes was modulated by uPAR. Mechanistically, uPAR sequestered TACE within lipid rafts to prevent Notch1 activation, thereby promoting cell proliferation and tumor formation. Given that uPAR signaling is nonessential for normal epidermal homeostasis, our results argue that uPAR may present a promising disease-specific target for preventing skin cancer development
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