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Int J Cancer. 2001 Aug 15;93(4):516-25.

Overexpression of homeobox gene HOXD3 induces coordinate expression of metastasis-related genes in human lung cancer cells.

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Division of Cancer-Related Genes, Institute for Genetic Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.


Homeobox-containing genes are expressed in spatiotemporal fashion during embryogenesis and act as master transcription-regulating factors which control the expression of a variety of genes involved in morphogenesis. They are also expressed in a tissue-specific manner in normal adult tissues and appear to give cells spatial information in the maintenance of their architectural integrity. We transfected a HOXD3 class I homeobox-containing gene into human lung cancer A549 cells and investigated alterations in gene expressions and phenotypes related to the maintenance of tissue architecture in HOXD3-overexpressing A549 cells. In the HOXD3-overexpressing cell lines, expression of E-cadherin was lost and plakoglobin was strongly repressed, whereas integrin alpha3 and beta3 were up-regulated and N-cadherin and integrin alpha4 were newly expressed. Compared with parental and control transfectant lines, the HOXD3-overexpressing cell lines showed highly motile and invasive activity. Blocking experiments using anti-integrin beta1 and beta3 suggested that the increased haptotaxis of the HOXD3-overexpressing cells to vitronectin resulted from increased expression and activation of integrin alphavbeta3, and that overexpression of the HOXD3 gene converted the integrin beta1-dependent haptotaxis to fibronectin into both integrin beta1- and beta3-dependent one. HOXD3 overexpression increased production of matrix-degrative enzymes including matrix metalloproteinase-2 and urokinase-plasminogen activator. When the tumor cells were intravenously injected into the tail veins of nude mice, HOXD3 transfectants formed a significantly large number of metastatic foci in lungs compared with the control transfectants. These findings suggest that HOXD3 can act as a metastasis-promoting gene in human lung cancer A549 cells.

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