Rhabdomyosarcomas (RMSs) are the most frequent soft tissue sarcomas in children that share many features of developing skeletal muscle. We have discovered that a T-box family member, TBX2, is highly upregulated in tumor cells of both major RMS subtypes. TBX2 is a repressor that is often overexpressed in cancer cells and is thought to function in bypassing cell growth control, including repression of p14 and p21. The cell cycle regulator p21 is required for the terminal differentiation of skeletal muscle cells and is silenced in RMS cells. We have found that TBX2 interacts with the myogenic regulatory factors MyoD and myogenin and inhibits the activity of these factors. TBX2 is expressed in primary myoblasts and C2C12 cells, but is strongly downregulated upon differentiation. TBX2 recruits the histone deacetylase HDAC1 and is a potent inhibitor of the expression of muscle-specific genes and the cell cycle regulators, p21 and p14. TBX2 promotes the proliferation of RMS cells and either depletions of TBX2 or dominant negative TBX2 upregulate p21- and muscle-specific genes. Significantly, depletion or interference with TBX2 completely inhibits tumor growth in a xenograft assay, highlighting the oncogenic role of TBX2 in RMS cells. Thus, the data demonstrate that elevated expression of TBX2 contributes to the pathology of RMS cells by promoting proliferation and repressing differentiation-specific gene expression. These results show that deregulated TBX2 serves as an oncogene in RMS, suggesting that TBX2 may serve as a new diagnostic marker or therapeutic target for RMS tumors.
Keywords: MyoD; RMS; TBX2; myogenin; p21.
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