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Epigenetic downregulation of human disabled homolog 2 switches TGF-beta from a tumor suppressor to a tumor promoter

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jelena Mann


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The cytokine TGF-beta acts as a tumor suppressor in normal epithelial cells and during the early stages of tumorigenesis. During malignant progression, cancer cells can switch their response to TGF-beta and use this cytokine as a potent oncogenic factor; however, the mechanistic basis for this is poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that downregulation of disabled homolog 2 (DAB2) gene expression via promoter methylation frequently occurs in human squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) and acts as an independent predictor of metastasis and poor prognosis. Retrospective microarray analysis in an independent data set indicated that low levels of DAB2 and high levels of TGFB2 expression correlate with poor prognosis. Immunohistochemistry, reexpression, genetic knockout, and RNAi silencing studies demonstrated that downregulation of DAB2 expression modulated the TGF-beta/Smad pathway. Simultaneously, DAB2 down-regulation abrogated TGF-beta tumor suppressor function, while enabling TGF-beta tumor-promoting activities. Downregulation of DAB2 blocked TGF-beta-mediated inhibition of cell proliferation and migration and enabled TGF-beta to promote cell motility, anchorage-independent growth, and tumor growth in vivo. Our data indicate that DAB2 acts as a tumor suppressor by dictating tumor cell TGF-beta responses, identify a biomarker for SCC progression, and suggest a means to stratify patients with advanced SCC who may benefit clinically from anti-TGF-beta therapies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hannigan A, Smith P, Kalna G, Lo Nigro C, Orange C, O'Brien DI, Shah R, Syed N, Spender LC, Herrera B, Thurlow JK, Lattanzio L, Monteverde M, Maurer ME, Buffa FM, Mann J, Chu DCK, West CML, Patridge M, Oien KA, Cooper JA, Frame MC, Harris AL, Hiller L, Nicholson LJ, Gasco M, Crook T, Inman GJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Clinical Investigation

Year: 2010

Volume: 120

Issue: 8

Pages: 2842-2857

Print publication date: 01/08/2010

ISSN (print): 0021-9738

ISSN (electronic): 1558-8238

Publisher: American Society for Clinical Investigation


DOI: 10.1172/JCI36125


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Funder referenceFunder name
Institute of Cancer Research
Associazione Italiana Ricerca Cancro
Breakthrough Breast Cancer
GM066257US Public Health Service