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Genes Cancer. 2010 Dec;1(12):1178-88. doi: 10.1177/1947601911404223.

GATA Transcription Factors and Cancer.

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Division of Hematology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


It has been almost a quarter century since it was first appreciated that a class of oncogenes contained in rapidly transforming avian retroviruses encoded DNA-binding transcription factors. As with other oncogenes, genetic recombination with the viral genome led to their overexpression or functional alteration. In the years that followed, alterations of numerous transcription factors were shown to be causatively involved in various cancers in human patients and model organisms. Depending on their normal cellular functions, these factors were subsequently categorized as proto-oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes. This review focuses on the role of GATA transcription factors in carcinogenesis. GATA factors are zinc finger DNA binding proteins that control the development of diverse tissues by activating or repressing transcription. GATA factors thus coordinate cellular maturation with proliferation arrest and cell survival. Therefore, a role of this family of genes in human cancers is not surprising. Prominent examples include structural mutations in GATA1 that are found in almost all megakaryoblastic leukemias in patients with Down syndrome; loss of GATA3 expression in aggressive, dedifferentiated breast cancers; and silencing of GATA4 and GATA5 expression in colorectal and lung cancers. Here, we discuss possible mechanisms of carcinogenesis vis-à-vis the normal functions of GATA factors as they pertain to human patients and mouse models of cancer.


GATA; cancer; transcription factors

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