HOXB13 is downregulated in colorectal cancer to confer TCF4-mediated transactivation

Br J Cancer. 2005 Jun 20;92(12):2233-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6602631.


Mutations in the Wnt signalling cascade are believed to cause aberrant proliferation of colorectal cells through T-cell factor-4 (TCF4) and its downstream growth-modulating factors. HOXB13 is exclusively expressed in prostate and colorectum. In prostate cancers, HOXB13 negatively regulates beta-catenin/TCF4-mediated transactivation and subsequently inhibits cell growth. To study the role of HOXB13 in colorectal tumorigenesis, we evaluated the expression of HOXB13 in 53 colorectal tumours originated from the distal left colon to rectum with their matching normal tissues using quantitative RT-PCR analysis. Expression of HOXB13 is either lost or diminished in 26 out of 42 valid tumours (62%), while expression of TCF4 RNA is not correlated with HOXB13 expression. TCF4 promoter analysis showed that HOXB13 does not regulate TCF4 at the transcriptional level. However, HOXB13 downregulated the expression of TCF4 and its target gene, c-myc, at the protein level and consequently inhibited beta-catenin/TCF-mediated signalling. Functionally, forced expression of HOXB13 drove colorectal cancer (CRC) cells into growth suppression. This is the first description of the downregulation of HOXB13 in CRC and its mechanism of action is mediated through the regulation of TCF4 protein stability. Our results suggest that loss of HOXB13 may be an important event for colorectal cell transformation, considering that over 90% of colorectal tumours retain mutations in the APC/beta-catenin pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Genes, myc / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • TCF Transcription Factors
  • Trans-Activators / physiology
  • Transcription Factor 7-Like 2 Protein
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcriptional Activation / genetics
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin


  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • HOXB13 protein, human
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • TCF Transcription Factors
  • TCF7L2 protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factor 7-Like 2 Protein
  • Transcription Factors
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin