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Mol Cancer. 2012 Apr 16;11:21. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-11-21.

IRF5 promotes the proliferation of human thyroid cancer cells.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Molecular Bio-Medicine, University of Catania, Via Androne, 83-95124 Catania, Italy.



Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 is a transcription factor that regulates the expression of genes involved in the response to viral infection and in the stimulation of the immune system. Moreover, multiple studies have demonstrated that it negatively regulates cell growth and oncogenesis, favoring cell differentiation and apoptosis.Thyroid carcinoma represents 98% of all thyroid malignancies and has shown a steady increase in incidence in both the USA and western European countries.


We investigated the expression, localization and function of IRF5 in thyroid cancer cells and found that it is highly expressed in both primary and immortalized thyroid carcinomas but not in normal thyrocytes. IRF5 levels were variably modulated by Interferon alpha but IRF5 only localized in the cytoplasmic compartment, thus failing to induce p21 expression as previously reported in different cell models. Furthermore, ectopic IRF5 increased both the proliferation rate and the clonogenic potential of malignant thyroid cells, protecting them from the cytotoxic effects of DNA-damaging agents. These results were directly attributable to IRF5, as demonstrated by the reduction in colony-forming ability of thyroid cancer cells after IRF5 silencing. An IRF5-dependent induction of endogenous B-Raf observed in all thyroid cancer cells might contribute to these unexpected effects.


These findings suggest that, in thyroid malignancies, IRF5 displays tumor-promoting rather than tumor-suppressor activities.

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