SOX1 functions as a tumor suppressor by antagonizing the WNT/β-catenin signaling pathway in hepatocellular carcinoma

Hepatology. 2012 Dec;56(6):2277-87. doi: 10.1002/hep.25933.


Oncogenic activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is common in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Our recent studies have demonstrated that SRY (sex determining region Y)-box 1 (SOX1) and secreted frizzled-related proteins are concomitantly promoter-hypermethylated, and this might lead to abnormal activation of the Wnt signaling pathway in HCC. SOX1 encodes a transcription factor involved in the regulation of embryonic development and cell fate determination. However, the expression and functional role of SOX1 in HCC remains unclear. In this study, we confirmed via quantitative methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction that SOX1 was frequently downregulated through promoter hypermethylation in HCC cells and tissues. Overexpression of SOX1 by a constitutive or inducible approach could suppress cell proliferation, colony formation, and invasion ability in HCC cell lines, as well as tumor growth in nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficiency mice. Conversely, knockdown of SOX1 by withdrawal of doxycycline could partially restore cell proliferation and colony formation in HCC cells. We used a T cell factor (TCF)-responsive luciferase reporter assay and western blot analysis to prove that SOX1 could regulate TCF-responsive transcriptional activity and inhibit the expression of Wnt downstream genes. Furthermore, we used glutathione S-transferase pull-down, co-immunoprecipitation, and confocal microscopy to demonstrate that SOX1 could interact with β-catenin but not with the β-catenin/TCF complex. Moreover, restoration of the expression of SOX1 induces significant cellular senescence in Hep3B cells.

Conclusion: Our data show that a developmental gene, SOX1, may function as a tumor suppressor by interfering with Wnt/β-catenin signaling in the development of HCC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Antigens, CD
  • Cadherins / genetics
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cyclin D1 / genetics
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6 / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Down-Regulation
  • Doxycycline / pharmacology
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor*
  • Genes, bcl-1
  • Genes, myc
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / drug effects
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antigens, CD
  • CDH1 protein, human
  • Cadherins
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SOX1 protein, human
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • p27 antigen
  • Cyclin D1
  • CDK4 protein, human
  • CDK6 protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 4
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • Doxycycline