Prognostic significance of cytoplasmic SOX9 in invasive ductal carcinoma and metastatic breast cancer

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2011 Feb;236(2):145-55. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2010.010086.


SOX9, a high mobility group (HMG) box transcription factor, is required for development, differentiation and lineage commitment. It is known to exert its effects through nuclear translocation, such as cell cycle changes in response to retinoic acid treatment in breast cancer cells. However, it is not known whether SOX9 has prognostic significance in human breast cancer. Over-expression and cytoplasmic sequestration of nuclear proteins are implicated in tumor progression. To determine whether SOX9 has any prognostic significance in human breast cancer, its expression and subcellular localization were analyzed in more than 200 human breast carcinomas (BCs). SOX9 mRNA expression data for human BCs were computed from microarray studies available in public databases and correlated with known poor prognostic parameters of BCs. SOX9 protein expression and its correlation with Ki-67 staining in human BCs were assessed using immunohistochemistry. Higher SOX9 mRNA levels were significantly associated with estrogen receptor negative (P ≤ 0.001) and higher grade (P ≤ 0.01) human breast tumors. Patients with higher SOX9 mRNA level had significantly shorter overall survival (P ≤ 0.0001). SOX9 protein, which is normally nuclear, was instead localized in the cytoplasm of 25-30% invasive ductal carcinomas (IDCs) and lymph node metastases. Its cytoplasmic accumulation significantly correlated with enhanced proliferation in breast tumors (Kendall's tau = 0.337 with a P value < 0.0001). Cytoplasmic SOX9 can serve as a valuable prognostic marker for IDCs and metastatic breast cancer. Its significant correlation with breast tumor cell proliferation implies that SOX9 directly contributes to the poor clinical outcomes associated with invasive breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / secondary
  • Cytoplasm / enzymology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ki-67 Antigen / analysis
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Analysis


  • Biomarkers
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor
  • SOX9 protein, human