Development of colorectal cancer (CRC) involves a series of genetic alterations with altered expression of proteins and cell signaling pathways. Here, we identified that galectin-4 (gal-4), a marker of differentiation, was down-regulated in CRC. The goal of this work was to determine the function of gal-4 in CRC. Toward this goal, the human colon biopsies and tissue microarrays containing a gradient of pathology were analyzed for gal-4 expression by immunohistochemistry. Cell proliferation, migration, motility, forced expression, knockdown, cell cycle and apoptosis assays were used to characterize gal-4 function. Immunohistochemistry identified that gal-4 expression was significantly down-regulated in adenomas and was essentially absent in invasive carcinomas. Forced expression of gal-4 in gal-4 -ve cells induced cell cycle arrest and retarded cell migration and motility. Further, gal-4 sensitized the cells to camptothecin-induced apoptosis. Gal-4 knockdown resulted in increased cell proliferation, migration and motility. Gal-4 was found to be associated with Wnt signaling proteins. Finally, gal-4 expression led to down-regulation of Wnt signaling target genes. This study demonstrates that loss of gal-4 is a common and specific event in CRC. This study also shows that gal-4 exhibits tumor suppressive effects in CRC cells in vitro. Through its ability to interact with and down-regulate the functions of Wnt signaling pathway, gal-4 reveals a new dimension in the control of the Wnt signaling pathway. Thus, gal-4 may prove to be an important molecule in understanding the biology of CRC.
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