The transcription factor Runx1 has been studied in leukemia and blood for decades, but recently it has been also implicated in epithelial biology and pathology. Particularly in mouse skin Runx1 modulates Wnt signaling levels thereby regulating timely induction of hair follicle specification, proper maturation of the emerging adult hair follicle stem cells in embryogenesis, and timely stem cell (SC) activation during adult homeostasis. Moreover, Runx1 acts as a tumor promoter in mouse skin squamous tumor formation and maintenance, likely by repressing p21 and promoting Stat3 activation. Similarly, Runx1 is essential for oral epithelium tumorigenesis mediated in mice by Ras, and for growth of three kinds of human epithelial cancer cells. In contrast, Runx1 has a tumor suppressor function in the mouse intestine and shows tumor subtype specific behavior in human breast cancer. Multiple studies revealed Runx1 SNPs to be associated with human cancers and autoimmune disease. With this information as background, the field is poised for functional and mechanistic studies to elucidate the role of Runx1 in formation and/or progression of epithelial-based human disease.
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