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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e48637. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048637. Epub 2012 Dec 12.

SOX4 transcriptionally regulates multiple SEMA3/plexin family members and promotes tumor growth in pancreatic cancer.

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Graduate Institute of Pathology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China.


Semaphorin signaling through Plexin frequently participates in tumorigenesis and malignant progression in various types of cancer. In particular, the role of semaphorin signaling in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains unexplored, despite a high likelihood of metastasis and mortality. Unlike other epithelial malignancies that often express a small number of specific genes in the Semaphorin/Plexin family, five or more are often expressed in human PDAC. Such concomitant expression of these SEMA3/Plexin family members is not a result of gene amplification, but (at least partially) from increased gene transcription activated by SOX4 de novo expressed in PDAC. Via chromatin-immunoprecipitation, luciferase promoter activity assay and electrophoresis mobility shift assay, SOX4 is demonstrated to bind to the consensus site at the promoter of each SEMA3 and Plexin gene to enhance transcription activity. Conversely, RNAi-knockdown of SOX4 in PDAC cell lines results in decreased expression of SEMA3/Plexin family members and is associated with restricted tumor growth both in vitro and in SCID mice. We further demonstrate that SOX4 levels parallel with the summed expression of SEMA3/Plexin family members (P = 0.033, NPar Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis), which also correlates with poor survival in human PDAC (P = 0.0409, Kaplan-Meier analysis). Intriguingly, miR-129-2 and miR-335, both of which target SOX4 for degradation, are co-repressed in human PDAC cases associated with up-regulated SOX4 in a statistically significant way. In conclusion, we disclose a miR-129-2(miR-335)/SOX4/Semaphorin-Plexin regulatory axis in the tumorigenesis of pancreatic cancer.

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