Research Papers:

POU2F1 activity regulates HOXD10 and HOXD11 promoting a proliferative and invasive phenotype in Head and Neck cancer

Daniel J. Sharpe, Katy S. Orr, Michael Moran, Sharon J. White, Stephen McQuaid, Terence R. Lappin, Alexander Thompson and Jacqueline A. James _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:8803-8815. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2492

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Daniel J. Sharpe1, Katy S. Orr1, Michael Moran1, Sharon J. White2, Stephen McQuaid3, Terence R. Lappin1, Alexander Thompson1 and Jacqueline A. James1,3

1 Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast

2 Pathology Department, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School, Dundee

3 The Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Laboratory, Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast and The Belfast Trust, Belfast City Hospital, Lisburn Road, Belfast


Jacqueline A James, email:

Keywords: Head and Neck cancer; HOXD10; HOXD11; POU2F1; Biomarker

Received: July 16, 2014 Accepted: September 15, 2014 Published: September 16, 2014


HOX genes are master regulators of organ morphogenesis and cell differentiation during embryonic development, and continue to be expressed throughout post-natal life. To test the hypothesis that HOX genes are dysregulated in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) we defined their expression profile, and investigated the function, transcriptional regulation and clinical relevance of a subset of highly expressed HOXD genes.

Two HOXD genes, D10 and D11, showed strikingly high levels in HNSCC cell lines, patient tumor samples and publicly available datasets. Knockdown of HOXD10 in HNSCC cells caused decreased proliferation and invasion, whereas knockdown of HOXD11 reduced only invasion.

POU2F1 consensus sequences were identified in the 5’ DNA of HOXD10 and D11. Knockdown of POU2F1 significantly reduced expression of HOXD10 and D11 and inhibited HNSCC proliferation. Luciferase reporter constructs of the HOXD10 and D11 promoters confirmed that POU2F1 consensus binding sites are required for optimal promoter activity.

Utilizing patient tumor samples a significant association was found between immunohistochemical staining of HOXD10 and both the overall and the disease-specific survival, adding further support that HOXD10 is dysregulated in head and neck cancer. Additional studies are now warranted to fully evaluate HOXD10 as a prognostic tool in head and neck cancers.

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