Homeoproteins, a family of transcription factors that have conserved homeobox domains, play critical roles in embryonic development in a wide range of species. Accumulating studies have revealed that homeoproteins are aberrantly expressed in multiple tumors and function as either tumor promoters or suppressors. In this study, we show that two homeoproteins, HOXB13 and ALX4, are associated with epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and invasion of ovarian cancer cells. HOXB13 and ALX4 formed a complex in cells, and exogenous expression of either protein promoted EMT and invasion. Conversely, depletion of either protein suppressed invasion and induced reversion of EMT. SLUG is a C2H2-type zinc-finger transcription factor that promotes EMT in various cell lines. Knockdown of HOXB13 or ALX4 suppressed SLUG expression, and exogenous expression of either protein promoted SLUG expression. Finally, we showed that SLUG expression was essential for the HOXB13-or ALX4-mediated EMT and invasion. Our results show that HOXB13/SLUG and ALX4/SLUG axes are novel pathways that promote EMT and invasion of ovarian cancer cells.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes