FAT atypical cadherin 1 (FAT1) regulates cell-cell adhesion and extracellular matrix architecture, while acting as tumor suppressor or oncogene, context-dependently. Despite implication of FAT1 in several malignancies, its role in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) remains unclear. Herein, we document the driver-oncogene role of FAT1, and its mediation of cell-death evasion, proliferation, oncogenicity, and chemoresistance in OSCC. In-silica analyses indicate FAT1 mutations are frequent and drive head-neck SCC, with enhanced expression defining high-risk population and poor prognosis. We demonstrated aberrant FAT1 mRNA and protein expression in OSCC compared with non-cancer tissues, whereas loss-of-FAT1-function attenuates human primary SAS and metastatic HSC-3 OSCC cell viability, without affecting normal primary human gingival fibroblast cells. shFAT1 suppressed PCNA and upregulated BAX/BCL2 ratio in SAS and HSC-3 cells. Moreover, compared with wild-type cells, shFAT1 concomitantly impaired HSC-3 cell migration, invasion, and clonogenicity. Interestingly, while over-expressed FAT1 characterized cisplatin-resistance (CispR), shFAT1 synchronously re-sensitized CispR cells to cisplatin, enhanced glutathione (GSH)/GSH synthetase (GSS)-mediated oxidative stress and deregulated LRP5/WNT2 signaling. Concisely, FAT1 is an actionable driver-oncogene in OSCC and targeting FAT1 in patients with erstwhile cisplatin-resistant OSCC is therapeutically promising.
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