Homeobox A9 transcriptionally regulates the EphB4 receptor to modulate endothelial cell migration and tube formation

Circ Res. 2004 Apr 2;94(6):743-51. doi: 10.1161/01.RES.0000120861.27064.09. Epub 2004 Feb 5.


Homeobox genes (Hox) encode for transcription factors, which regulate cell proliferation and migration and play an important role in the development of the cardiovascular system during embryogenesis. In this study, we investigated the role of HoxA9 for endothelial cell migration and angiogenesis in vitro and identified a novel target gene, the EphB4 receptor. Inhibition of HoxA9 expression decreased endothelial cell tube formation and inhibited endothelial cell migration, suggesting that HoxA9 regulates angiogenesis. Because Eph receptor tyrosine kinases importantly contribute to angiogenesis, we examined whether HoxA9 may transcriptionally regulate the expression of EphB4. Downregulation of HoxA9 reduced the expression of EphB4. Chromatin-immunoprecipitation revealed that HoxA9 interacted with the EphB4 promoter, whereas a deletion construct of HoxA9 without DNA-binding motif (Delta(aa) 206-272) did not bind. Consistently, HoxA9 wild-type overexpression activated the EphB4 promoter as determined by reporter gene expression. HoxA9 binds to the EphB4 promoter and stimulates its expression resulting in an increase of endothelial cell migration and tube forming activity. Thus, modulation of EphB4 expression may contribute to the proangiogenic effect of HoxA9 in endothelial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured / cytology
  • Cells, Cultured / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / chemistry
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Morphogenesis
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology*
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / pharmacology
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • Receptor, EphB4 / biosynthesis
  • Receptor, EphB4 / genetics
  • Receptor, EphB4 / physiology*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / physiology
  • Sequence Deletion
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • homeobox protein HOXA9
  • Receptor, EphB4