Background: Zfx is a zinc finger protein of the Zfy family, whose members are highly conserved in vertebrates. Zfx is a shared transcriptional regulator of both embryonic stem cells (ESC) and hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), which suggests a common genetic basis of self-renewal in embryonic and adult stem cells. The level of Zfx expression correlates with aggressiveness and severity in many cancer types, including prostate cancer, breast cancer, and leukemia. However, the importance of Zfx in human glioma is largely unknown. In the present study, we examined the role of Zfx in human glioma.
Methods: We detected expression levels of Zfx mRNA in U251 cells, U87 cells, U373 cells, and A172 cells by semi-quantitative RT-PCR. To analyze the expression of Zfx mRNA in glioma tissues, we performed real-time quantitative PCR on 35 pathologically confirmed glioma samples (Grade I-4cases, Grade II-13cases, Grade III-11cases, and Grade IV-7cases) and on 5 noncancerous brain tissue samples. We used lentivirus-mediated small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to knock down Zfx expression in the human malignant glioma cell line U251. Changes in Zfx target gene expression were determined by real-time RT-PCR. Cell proliferation was examined by a High Content Screening assay. DNA synthesis in proliferating cells was determined by BrdU incorporation. Cell cycle distribution and apoptosis were detected by flowcytometric analysis.
Results: We discovered that Zfx mRNA was expressed in U251 cells, U87 cells, U373 cells, and A172 cells. The expression level of Zfx is significantly higher in gliomas compared to noncancerous brain tissue. Using a lentivirus-based RNAi approach, Zfx expression was significantly inhibited in human glioblastoma U251 cells. The effects of Zfx knockdown on cell proliferation, cell cycle distribution, and apoptosis were assessed. Inhibition of Zfx expression in U251 cells by RNAi significantly impaired cell proliferation, increased apoptosis, and arrested cells in S phase.
Conclusions: The results of our study demonstrate that the Zfx gene is highly expressed in glioma tissue and in glioma cell lines. Furthermore, Zfx may play a critical role in cell proliferation, cell cycle distribution, and apoptosis of human malignant glioma cells.