Aberrant Upregulation of RUNX3 Activates Developmental Genes to Drive Metastasis in Gastric Cancer

Cancer Res Commun. 2024 Feb 2;4(2):279-292. doi: 10.1158/2767-9764.CRC-22-0165.


Gastric cancer metastasis is a major cause of mortality worldwide. Inhibition of RUNX3 in gastric cancer cell lines reduced migration, invasion, and anchorage-independent growth in vitro. Following splenic inoculation, CRISPR-mediated RUNX3-knockout HGC-27 cells show suppression of xenograft growth and liver metastasis. We interrogated the potential of RUNX3 as a metastasis driver in gastric cancer by profiling its target genes. Transcriptomic analysis revealed strong involvement of RUNX3 in the regulation of multiple developmental pathways, consistent with the notion that Runt domain transcription factor (RUNX) family genes are master regulators of development. RUNX3 promoted "cell migration" and "extracellular matrix" programs, which are necessary for metastasis. Of note, we found pro-metastatic genes WNT5A, CD44, and VIM among the top differentially expressed genes in RUNX3 knockout versus control cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing and HiChIP analyses revealed that RUNX3 bound to the enhancers and promoters of these genes, suggesting that they are under direct transcriptional control by RUNX3. We show that RUNX3 promoted metastasis in part through its upregulation of WNT5A to promote migration, invasion, and anchorage-independent growth in various malignancies. Our study therefore reveals the RUNX3-WNT5A axis as a key targetable mechanism for gastric cancer metastasis.

Significance: Subversion of RUNX3 developmental gene targets to metastasis program indicates the oncogenic nature of inappropriate RUNX3 regulation in gastric cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genes, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Up-Regulation / genetics


  • Runx3 protein, human