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Oncogene. 2013 Jul 18;32(29):3397-409. doi: 10.1038/onc.2012.506. Epub 2012 Dec 17.

The role of SRY-related HMG box transcription factor 4 (SOX4) in tumorigenesis and metastasis: friend or foe?

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Department of Cell Biology, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Development and progression of cancer are mediated by alterations in transcriptional networks, resulting in a disturbed balance between the activity of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Transcription factors have the capacity to regulate global transcriptional profiles, and are consequently often found to be deregulated in their expression and function during tumorigenesis. Sex-determining region Y-related high-mobility-group box transcription factor 4 (SOX4) is a member of the group C subfamily of the SOX transcription factors and has a critical role during embryogenesis, where its expression is widespread and controls the development of numerous tissues. SOX4 expression is elevated in a wide variety of tumors, including leukemia, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer, suggesting a fundamental role in the development of these malignancies. In many cancers, deregulated expression of this developmental factor has been correlated with increased cancer cell proliferation, cell survival, inhibition of apoptosis and tumor progression through the induction of an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and metastasis. However, in a limited subset of tumors, SOX4 has also been reported to act as a tumor suppressor. These opposing roles suggest that the outcome of SOX4 activation depends on the cellular context and the tumor origin. Indeed, SOX4 expression, transcriptional activity and target gene specificity can be controlled by signaling pathways, including the transforming growth factor-β and the WNT pathway, as well as at the post-translational level through regulation of protein stability and interaction with specific cofactors, such as TCF, syntenin-1 and p53. Here, we provide an overview of our current knowledge concerning the role of SOX4 in tumor development and progression.

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