Role of Smad4 (DPC4) inactivation in human cancer

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003 Jul 11;306(4):799-804. doi: 10.1016/s0006-291x(03)01066-0.


The tumor suppressor gene Smad4 (DPC4) at chromosome 18q21.1 belongs to the Smad family, which mediates the TGFbeta signaling pathway suppressing epithelial cell growth. This review summarizes the mutational events of the Smad4 gene in human cancer. The Smad4 gene is genetically responsible for familial juvenile polyposis, an autosomal dominant disease characterized by predisposition to gastrointestinal polyps and cancer. In this syndrome, polyps are formed by inactivation of the Smad4 gene through germline mutation and loss of the unaffected wild-type allele. In pancreatic and colorectal cancer, inactivation of the Smad4 gene through homozygous deletion or intragenic mutation occurs frequently in association with malignant progression. However, mutation of this gene is seen only occasionally in the rest of human cancers. The majority of Smad4 gene mutations in human cancer are missense, nonsense, and frameshift mutations at the mad homology 2 region (MH2), which interfere with the homo-oligomer formation of Smad4 protein and the hetero-oligomer formation between Smad4 and Smad2 proteins, resulting in disruption of TGFbeta signaling. Supporting evidence for the above observation was provided by genetically manipulated mice carrying either a heterozygote of the Smad4 gene or a compound heterozygote of the Smad4 and APC genes, which develop either gastrointestinal polyps/cancer mimicking familial juvenile polyposis or progressed colorectal cancer, respectively.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Signal Transduction
  • Smad4 Protein
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Trans-Activators / physiology*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • SMAD4 protein, human
  • Smad4 Protein
  • Trans-Activators