Background & aims: The intestine-specific caudal-related homeobox transcription factor CDX2 seems to play a key role in intestinal development and differentiation. Inactivation of one Cdx2 allele predisposes mice to develop colon polyps, and loss of CDX2 expression is a feature of some poorly differentiated colon carcinomas in humans. Conversely, aberrant CDX2 expression is often seen in intestinal metaplasias in the stomach and esophagus and in some gastric carcinomas. To better understand CDX2 function, we sought to define CDX2-regulated genes.
Methods: HT-29 colon cancer cells with minimal endogenous CDX2 expression were engineered to express exogenous CDX2, and gene expression changes relative to control cells were assessed using high-density oligonucleotide arrays.
Results: The gene for liver intestine (LI)-cadherin (cadherin 17) was strongly induced by CDX2 in HT-29. In other colorectal cancer lines, endogenous CDX2 and LI-cadherin expression were well correlated. Activation of a ligand-regulated form of CDX2 rapidly induced LI-cadherin gene expression, even in the presence of protein synthesis inhibitor. Analysis of the 5'-flanking region of the LI-cadherin gene defined 2 CDX2 responsive elements, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays indicate CDX2 binds to the elements. In primary colorectal cancers and intestinal metaplasias in the stomach, CDX2 and LI-cadherin expression were tightly correlated.
Conclusions: CDX2 regulates LI-cadherin gene expression in normal, metaplastic, and neoplastic tissues of the gastrointestinal tract via binding to elements in the 5'-flanking region of the gene. Given the well-established roles of cadherins in morphogenesis and differentiation, LI-cadherin may be a key factor mediating CDX2 function in intestinal cell fate determination.