Defining a tissue stem cell-driven Runx1/Stat3 signalling axis in epithelial cancer

EMBO J. 2012 Nov 5;31(21):4124-39. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2012.270. Epub 2012 Oct 2.


Cancers and tissue stem cells (SCs) share similar molecular pathways for their self-renewal and differentiation. The race is on to identify unique pathways to specifically target the cancer, while sparing normal SCs. Here, we uncover the transcription factor Runx1/AML1, a known haematopoietic and leukaemia factor, albeit dispensable for normal adult SC homeostasis, as being important for some mouse and human epithelial cancers. We implicate Runx1 as a SC-intrinsic gene in mouse hair follicle and oral epithelia by genetic lineage tracing in adulthood. Runx1-expressing SCs, but not other cells that ectopically upregulate Runx1 by injury and inflammation, are at the skin tumour origin. Runx1 loss impairs tumour initiation and maintenance and the growth of oral, skin, and ovarian epithelial human cancer cells. Runx1 stimulates Stat3 signalling via direct transcriptional repression of SOCS3 and SOCS4 and this is essential for cancer cell growth. Thus, Runx1 is a broader epithelial SC and cancer factor than previously recognized, and qualifies as an attractive potential target for both prevention and therapy of several epithelial cancers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 2 Subunit / genetics
  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 2 Subunit / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mouth Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Mouth Neoplasms / mortality
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / mortality
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 Protein
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins / genetics
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins / metabolism
  • Survival Rate


  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 2 Subunit
  • RNA, Messenger
  • SOCS4 protein, mouse
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Socs3 protein, mouse
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 Protein
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins