Gene Summary

Gene:HOXB4; homeobox B4
Aliases: HOX2, HOX2F, HOX-2.6
Summary:This gene is a member of the Antp homeobox family and encodes a nuclear protein with a homeobox DNA-binding domain. It is included in a cluster of homeobox B genes located on chromosome 17. The encoded protein functions as a sequence-specific transcription factor that is involved in development. Intracellular or ectopic expression of this protein expands hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells in vivo and in vitro, making it a potential candidate for therapeutic stem cell expansion. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2008]
Databases:OMIM, HGNC, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:homeobox protein Hox-B4
Source:NCBIAccessed: 18 August, 2015


What does this gene/protein do?
Show (18)

Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1990-2015)
Graph generated 18 August 2015 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

Mouse over the terms for more detail; many indicate links which you can click for dedicated pages about the topic.

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Messenger RNA
  • Chromosome 17
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transduction
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Bone Marrow Cells
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Wilms Tumour
  • Cancer Stem Cells
  • Myeloid Leukemia
  • fms-Like Tyrosine Kinase 3
  • DNA Methylation
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Homeobox Genes
  • Down-Regulation
  • MicroRNAs
  • Biological Models
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Cancer Gene Expression Regulation
  • Transfection
  • Leukemic Gene Expression Regulation
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Survival Rate
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • ras Proteins
  • Leukaemia
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Neoplastic Cell Transformation
  • P-Glycoproteins
  • Up-Regulation
  • Transcription Factors
  • P-Glycoprotein
  • Tumor Markers
  • Vaginal Smears
  • Acute Myeloid Leukaemia
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins
  • Base Sequence
  • Nuclear Proteins
Tag cloud generated 18 August, 2015 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (4)

Data table showing topics related to specific cancers and associated disorders. Scope includes mutations and abnormal protein expression.

Note: list is not exhaustive. Number of papers are based on searches of PubMed (click on topic title for arbitrary criteria used).

Latest Publications: HOXB4 (cancer-related)

Lin SH, Wang J, Saintigny P, et al.
Genes suppressed by DNA methylation in non-small cell lung cancer reveal the epigenetics of epithelial-mesenchymal transition.
BMC Genomics. 2014; 15:1079 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: DNA methylation is associated with aberrant gene expression in cancer, and has been shown to correlate with therapeutic response and disease prognosis in some types of cancer. We sought to investigate the biological significance of DNA methylation in lung cancer.
RESULTS: We integrated the gene expression profiles and data of gene promoter methylation for a large panel of non-small cell lung cancer cell lines, and identified 578 candidate genes with expression levels that were inversely correlated to the degree of DNA methylation. We found these candidate genes to be differentially methylated in normal lung tissue versus non-small cell lung cancer tumors, and segregated by histologic and tumor subtypes. We used gene set enrichment analysis of the genes ranked by the degree of correlation between gene expression and DNA methylation to identify gene sets involved in cellular migration and metastasis. Our unsupervised hierarchical clustering of the candidate genes segregated cell lines according to the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition phenotype. Genes related to the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, such as AXL, ESRP1, HoxB4, and SPINT1/2, were among the nearly 20% of the candidate genes that were differentially methylated between epithelial and mesenchymal cells. Greater numbers of genes were methylated in the mesenchymal cells and their expressions were upregulated by 5-azacytidine treatment. Methylation of the candidate genes was associated with erlotinib resistance in wild-type EGFR cell lines. The expression profiles of the candidate genes were associated with 8-week disease control in patients with wild-type EGFR who had unresectable non-small cell lung cancer treated with erlotinib, but not in patients treated with sorafenib.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that the underlying biology of genes regulated by DNA methylation may have predictive value in lung cancer that can be exploited therapeutically.

Yu H, Neale G, Zhang H, et al.
Downregulation of Prdm16 mRNA is a specific antileukemic mechanism during HOXB4-mediated HSC expansion in vivo.
Blood. 2014; 124(11):1737-47 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Overexpression of HOXB4 in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) leads to increased self-renewal without causing hematopoietic malignancies in transplanted mice. The molecular basis of HOXB4-mediated benign HSC expansion in vivo is not well understood. To gain further insight into the molecular events underlying HOXB4-mediated HSC expansion, we analyzed gene expression changes at multiple time points in Lin(-)Sca1(+)c-kit(+) cells from mice transplanted with bone marrow cells transduced with a MSCV-HOXB4-ires-YFP vector. A distinct HOXB4 transcriptional program was reproducibly induced and stabilized by 12 weeks after transplant. Dynamic expression changes were observed in genes critical for HSC self-renewal as well as in genes involved in myeloid and B-cell differentiation. Prdm16, a transcription factor associated with human acute myeloid leukemia, was markedly repressed by HOXB4 but upregulated by HOXA9 and HOXA10, suggesting that Prdm16 downregulation was involved in preventing leukemia in HOXB4 transplanted mice. Functional evidence to support this mechanism was obtained by enforcing coexpression of sPrdm16 and HOXB4, which led to enhanced self-renewal, myeloid expansion, and leukemia. Altogether, these studies define the transcriptional pathways involved in HOXB4 HSC expansion in vivo and identify repression of Prdm16 transcription as a mechanism by which expanding HSCs avoid leukemic transformation.

Xavier FC, Destro MF, Duarte CM, Nunes FD
Epigenetic repression of HOXB cluster in oral cancer cell lines.
Arch Oral Biol. 2014; 59(8):783-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: Aberrant DNA methylation is a fundamental transcriptional control mechanism in carcinogenesis. The expression of homeobox genes is usually controlled by an epigenetic mechanism, such as the methylation of CpG islands in the promoter region. The aim of this study was to describe the differential methylation pattern of HOX genes in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) cell lines and transcript status in a group of hypermethylated and hypomethylated genes.
DESIGN: Quantitative analysis of DNA methylation was performed on two OSCC cell lines (SCC4 and SCC9) using a method denominated Human Homeobox Genes EpiTect Methyl qPCR Arrays, which allowed fast, precise methylation detection of 24 HOX specific genes without bisulfite conversion.
RESULTS: Methylation greater than 50% was detected in HOXA11, HOXA6, HOXA7, HOXA9, HOXB1, HOXB2, HOXB3, HOXB4, HOXB5, HOXB6, HOXC8 and HOXD10. Both cell lines demonstrated similar hypermethylation status for eight HOX genes. A similar pattern of promoter hypermethylation and hypomethylation was demonstrated for the HOXB cluster and HOXA cluster, respectively. Moreover, the hypermethylation profile of the HOXB cluster, especially HOXB4, was correlated with decreased transcript expression, which was restored following treatment with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine.
CONCLUSIONS: The homeobox methylation profile in OSCC cell lines is consistent with an epigenetic biomarker.

Rodríguez-Rodero S, Fernández AF, Fernández-Morera JL, et al.
DNA methylation signatures identify biologically distinct thyroid cancer subtypes.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013; 98(7):2811-21 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the global patterns of aberrant DNA methylation in thyroid cancer.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We have used DNA methylation arrays to determine, for the first time, the genome-wide promoter methylation status of papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid tumors.
RESULTS: We identified 262 and 352 hypermethylated and 13 and 21 hypomethylated genes in differentiated papillary and follicular tumors, respectively. Interestingly, the other tumor types analyzed displayed more hypomethylated genes (280 in anaplastic and 393 in medullary tumors) than aberrantly hypermethylated genes (86 in anaplastic and 131 in medullary tumors). Among the genes indentified, we show that 4 potential tumor suppressor genes (ADAMTS8, HOXB4, ZIC1, and KISS1R) and 4 potential oncogenes (INSL4, DPPA2, TCL1B, and NOTCH4) are frequently regulated by aberrant methylation in primary thyroid tumors. In addition, we show that aberrant promoter hypomethylation-associated overexpression of MAP17 might promote tumor growth in thyroid cancer.
CONCLUSIONS: Thyroid cancer subtypes present differential promoter methylation signatures, and nondifferentiated subtypes are characterized by aberrant promoter hypomethylation rather than hypermethylation. Additional studies are needed to determine the potential clinical interest of the tumor subtype-specific DNA methylation signatures described herein and the role of aberrant promoter hypomethylation in nondifferentiated thyroid tumors.

Koller K, Das S, Leuschner I, et al.
Identification of the transcription factor HOXB4 as a novel target of miR-23a.
Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 2013; 52(8):709-15 [PubMed] Related Publications
The transcription factor HOXB4 not only plays a role during nephrogenesis, but displays also oncogenic characteristics in different malignant neoplasms. An in-silico analysis revealed HOXB4 as a new target of microRNA-23a (miR-23a). Nephroblastomas are malignant embryonal renal neoplasms of childhood resembling developing kidney morphologically and genetically. In our study we verified HOXB4 as a target of miR-23a and furthermore examined the expression of HOXB4 and miR-23a in nephroblastomas. We investigated binding of miR-23a to the 3'UTR of HOXB4 by a luciferase assay. Effects on protein levels of HOXB4 were analysed in Western blot experiments. Expression of HOXB4 in nephroblastomas was assessed by quantitative REALtime PCR (qRT PCR) and immunohistochemistry. The luciferase reporter assay showed a statistically significant downregulation of activity by 72,5% demonstrating direct binding of miR-23a to the 3'UTR of HOXB4. In addition, miR-23a reduced the protein expression of HOXB4 statistically significantly by 65.1%. All 21 nephroblastomas investigated had statistically significantly decreased expression levels of miR-23a. A high level of HOXB4 mRNA was found in five out of 33 nephroblastomas including mixed, blastema-type and stroma-type tumors. Protein expression of HOXB4 was stronger in 15 out of 27 nephroblastomas of all subtypes in a semiquantitative comparison to normal kidney parenchyma. Our study demonstrates for the first time the regulation of HOXB4 by miR-23a. In comparison to mature kidney, nephroblastomas had low levels of miR-23a, and in a majority of them a stronger protein expression in comparison to mature kidney was found.

Shen J, Wang S, Zhang YJ, et al.
Genome-wide aberrant DNA methylation of microRNA host genes in hepatocellular carcinoma.
Epigenetics. 2012; 7(11):1230-7 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Mature microRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs involved in posttranslational gene silencing. Previous studies found that downregulation of miRNAs is a common feature observed in solid tumors, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We employed a genome-wide approach to test the hypothesis that DNA methylation alterations in miRNA host genes may cause deregulated miRNA expression in HCC. We analyzed tumor and adjacent non-tumor tissues from 62 Taiwanese HCC cases using Infinium HumanMethylation27 DNA Analysis BeadChips that include 254 CpG sites covering 110 miRNAs from 64 host genes. Expression levels of three identified miRNAs (miR-10a, miR-10b and miR-196b) were measured in a subset of 37 HCC tumor and non-tumor tissues. After Bonferroni adjustment, a total of 54 CpG sites from 27 host genes significantly differed in DNA methylation levels between tumor and adjacent non-tumor tissues with 53 sites significantly hypermethylated in tumor tissues. Among the 54 significant CpG sites, 15 sites had more than 2-fold tumor/non-tumor changes, 17 sites had differences > 10%, and 10 sites had both features [including 8 significantly hypermethylated CpG sites in the host genes of miR-10a, miR-10b and miR-196b (HOXB4, HOXD4 and HOXA9, respectively)]. Significant downregulation of miR-10a was observed in tumor compared with non-tumor tissues (0.50 vs. 1.73, p = 0.031). The concordance for HOXB4 methylation alteration and dysregulation of miR-10a was 73.5%. No significant change was observed for miR-10b expression. Unexpectedly, miR-196b was significantly upregulated in tumor compared with non-tumor tissues (p = 0.0001). These data suggest that aberrant DNA methylation may lead to dysregulation of miR-10a in HCC tumor tissues.

Umeda S, Yamamoto K, Murayama T, et al.
Prognostic significance of HOXB4 in de novo acute myeloid leukemia.
Hematology. 2012; 17(3):125-31 [PubMed] Related Publications
As research into hematopoiesis advances, new factors associated with hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) activity have been discovered, and the contribution of HSC factors to hematopoiesis is now actively being investigated. Since the involvement of stem cells is considered to be important in hematological malignancies as well as normal hematopoiesis, we examined the expression of newly defined HSC factors including HOXB4, TCFEC, HMGB-1, FOS, and SPI-1 in the bone marrow (BM) from de novo acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients. Expression levels of mRNA extracted from frozen specimens of AML patients and normal controls were measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Among the HSC factors, HOXB4 exhibited significantly higher expression in the BM of AML as compared with normal controls. Immunostaining for HOXB4 revealed that the HOXB4-positive cell ratios correlated well with the expression levels of mRNA for HOXB4 in AML BM. Based on the HOXB4-positive cell ratio, AML patients were divided into two groups (cases with higher ratios and lower ratios). The group with higher HOXB4-positive cell ratios had better prognoses as compared with the group with lower ratios. Multivariate analysis confirmed the HOXB4-positivity as an independent predictor of overall survival of AML patients. Lastly, mRNA expression levels for HOXB4 were inversely correlated with the expression levels of at least two genes, including ABCB1, which is known to be a multidrug-resistance gene. Our study distinguishes a subgroup of AML with higher HOXB4 expression and better prognosis, and this might be reflected by relative drug sensitivity in leukemic cells.

Herault O, Hope KJ, Deneault E, et al.
A role for GPx3 in activity of normal and leukemia stem cells.
J Exp Med. 2012; 209(5):895-901 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The determinants of normal and leukemic stem cell self-renewal remain poorly characterized. We report that expression of the reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger glutathione peroxidase 3 (GPx3) positively correlates with the frequency of leukemia stem cells (LSCs) in Hoxa9+Meis1-induced leukemias. Compared with a leukemia with a low frequency of LSCs, a leukemia with a high frequency of LSCs showed hypomethylation of the Gpx3 promoter region, and expressed high levels of Gpx3 and low levels of ROS. LSCs and normal hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) engineered to express Gpx3 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) were much less competitive in vivo than control cells. However, progenitor cell proliferation and differentiation was not affected by Gpx3 shRNA. Consistent with this, HSCs overexpressing Gpx3 were significantly more competitive than control cells in long-term repopulation experiments, and overexpression of the self-renewal genes Prdm16 or Hoxb4 boosted Gpx3 expression. In human primary acute myeloid leukemia samples, GPX3 expression level directly correlated with adverse prognostic outcome, revealing a potential novel target for the eradication of LSCs.

Barba-de la Rosa AP, Briones-Cerecero E, Lugo-Melchor O, et al.
Hox B4 as potential marker of non-differentiated cells in human cervical cancer cells.
J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2012; 138(2):293-300 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Cervical cancer (CC) is a common malignancy in women worldwide. Cervical tumorigenesis involves a multistep process in which accumulations of genetic alterations are present. Homeotic genes, such as HOX gene re-expression, have been reported in a wide variety of tumors.
METHODS: In order to know the role of HOX B4 gene expression in CC, in the present study, two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization, and time-of-flight mass spectrometry were used for differential screening of protein expression in CC. Immunohistochemical analysis was performed on the cervical tissue microarray (TMA) to detect the Hox B4 protein.
RESULTS: Hox B4 peptide was detected among 15 increased spots differentially observed in CC. Using TMA, Hox B4 protein was also immunodetected in the nuclei of cervical epithelial tumor cells, while in normal cervical epithelium, it was absent. Interestingly, it was possible to detect the Hox B4 protein in the precursor lesions.
CONCLUSIONS: Hox B4 protein is present in the precursor lesions as CC cells, suggesting that Hox B4 could be a protein related to the neoplastic state (non-differentiated cells) of human cervical epithelium.

Shu Y, Wang B, Wang J, et al.
Identification of methylation profile of HOX genes in extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.
World J Gastroenterol. 2011; 17(29):3407-19 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
AIM: To identify methylation profile and novel tumor marker of extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) with high throughout microarray.
METHODS: Differential methylation profile was compared between normal bile duct epithelial cell lines and CCA cell lines by methyl-DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) microarray. Bisulfite-polymerase chain reaction (BSP) was performed to identify the methylated allels of target genes. Expression of target genes was investigated before and after the treatment with DNA demethylating agent. Expression of candidate genes was also evaluated by immunofluorescence in 30 specimens of CCA tissues and 9 normal bile duct tissues.
RESULTS: Methylation profile of CCA was identified with MeDIP microarray in the respects of different gene functions and signaling pathways. Interestingly, 97 genes with hypermethylated CpG islands in the promoter region were homeobox genes. The top 5 hypermethylated homeobox genes validated by BSP were HOXA2 (94.29%), HOXA5 (95.38%), HOXA11 (91.67%), HOXB4 (90.56%) and HOXD13 (94.38%). Expression of these genes was reactivated with 5'-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. Significant expression differences were found between normal bile duct and extrahepatic CCA tissues (66.67%-100% vs 3.33%-10%).
CONCLUSION: HOXA2, HOXA5, HOXA11, HOXB4 and HOXD13 may work as differential epigenetic biomarkers between malignant and benign biliary tissues.

Gray S, Pandha HS, Michael A, et al.
HOX genes in pancreatic development and cancer.
JOP. 2011; 12(3):216-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
The HOX genes are a family of homeodomain-containing transcription factors that determine cellular identity during development and which are subsequently re-expressed in many types of cancer. Some recent studies have shown that HOX genes may have key roles both in pancreatic development and in adult diseases of the pancreas, including cancer. In this review we consider recent advances in elucidating the role of HOX genes in these processes, how they may connect early developmental events to subsequent adult disease, and their potential both as diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets.

Starkova J, Zamostna B, Mejstrikova E, et al.
HOX gene expression in phenotypic and genotypic subgroups and low HOXA gene expression as an adverse prognostic factor in pediatric ALL.
Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2010; 55(6):1072-82 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: HOX genes play an important role in both normal lymphopoiesis and leukemogenesis. However, HOX expression patterns in leukemia cells compared to normal lymphoid progenitors have not been systematically studied in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) subtypes.
PROCEDURE: The RNA expression levels of HOXA, HOXB, and CDX1/2 genes were analyzed by qRT-PCR in a cohort of 61 diagnostic pediatric ALL samples and FACS-sorted subpopulations of normal lymphoid progenitors.
RESULTS: The RNA expression of HOXA7-10, HOXA13, and HOXB2-4 genes was exclusively detected in leukemic cells and immature progenitors. The RNA expression of HOXB6 and CDX2 genes was exclusively detected in leukemic cells but not in B-lineage cells at any of the studied developmental stages. HOXA3-4, HOXA7, and HOXB3-4 genes were differentially expressed between BCP-ALL and T-ALL subgroups, and among genotypically defined MLL/AF4, TEL/AML1, BCR/ABL, hyperdiploid and normal karyotype subgroups. However, this differential expression did not define specific clusters in hierarchical cluster analysis. HOXA7 gene was low expressed at the RNA level in patients with hyperdiploid leukemia, whereas HOXB7 and CDX2 genes were low expressed in TEL/AML1-positive and BCR/ABL-positive cases, respectively. In contrast to previous findings in acute myeloid leukemia, high HOXA RNA expression was associated with an excellent prognosis in Cox's regression model (P = 0.03). In MLL/AF4-positive ALL, lower HOXA RNA expression correlated with the methylation status of their promoters.
CONCLUSIONS: HOX gene RNA expression cannot discriminate leukemia subgroups or relative maturity of leukemic cells. However, HOXA RNA expression correlates with prognosis, and particular HOX genes are expressed in specific genotypically characterized subgroups.

Chen F, Li Y, Wang L, Hu L
Knockdown of BMI-1 causes cell-cycle arrest and derepresses p16INK4a, HOXA9 and HOXC13 mRNA expression in HeLa cells.
Med Oncol. 2011; 28(4):1201-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
The human oncogene B-cell-specific Moloney murine leukemia virus integration site 1 (BMI-1) is a member of the mammalian Polycomb group family. The overexpression of BMI-1 is associated with human malignancies. In this study, the effects of knockdown of BMI-1 by shRNA-mediated RNA interference on cell cycle and possible downstream targets in human cervical adenocarcinoma HeLa cells were investigated. As a result, when the shRNA plasmid was stably introduced into the cell line, the mRNA and protein of BMI-1 were specifically down-regulated, and the cells increased in the phase of G1 and cells in S phase significantly decreased by flow cytometric analysis; the knockdown of BMI-1 expression could lead to significant up-regulation of p16INK4a, HOXA9 and HOXC13 mRNA expression, but hTERT and HOXB4 mRNA expression did not change significantly. In conclusion, RNAi-mediated knockdown of BMI-1 expression can induce cell-cycle arrest and up-regulate p16INK4a, HOXA9 and HOXC13 in HeLa cells. Our results suggest that targeting BMI-1 might be a therapeutic potential for the treatment of cancer.

Wang Z, Iwasaki M, Ficara F, et al.
GSK-3 promotes conditional association of CREB and its coactivators with MEIS1 to facilitate HOX-mediated transcription and oncogenesis.
Cancer Cell. 2010; 17(6):597-608 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Acute leukemias induced by MLL chimeric oncoproteins are among the subset of cancers distinguished by a paradoxical dependence on GSK-3 kinase activity for sustained proliferation. We demonstrate here that GSK-3 maintains the MLL leukemia stem cell transcriptional program by promoting the conditional association of CREB and its coactivators TORC and CBP with homedomain protein MEIS1, a critical component of the MLL-subordinate program, which in turn facilitates HOX-mediated transcription and transformation. This mechanism also applies to hematopoietic cells transformed by other HOX genes, including CDX2, which is highly expressed in a majority of acute myeloid leukemias, thus providing a molecular approach based on GSK-3 inhibitory strategies to target HOX-associated transcription in a broad spectrum of leukemias.

Lehne G, Grasmo-Wendler UH, Berner JM, et al.
Upregulation of stem cell genes in multidrug resistant K562 leukemia cells.
Leuk Res. 2009; 33(10):1379-85 [PubMed] Related Publications
The transmembrane transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp) encoded by ABCB1, is one major cause for multidrug resistance (MDR). We compared the genomic profile and gene expression pattern of the P-gp positive K562VCR cells with parental P-gp negative K562wt cells. In K562VCR array CGH revealed amplification of ABCB1, ABCB4, ABCB5 and SEMA3D, whereas expression microarrays demonstrated upregulation of stem cell genes (e.g. KIT and HOXB4), anti-apoptotic genes (e.g. IGF1R and CCNG1), and downregulation of pro-apoptotic genes (e.g. CASP4, 6 and 7). Thus, K562VCR cells disclose stem cell characteristics including a range of drug resistance mechanisms possibly attained as a stem cell program switched on en bloc.

Unger C, Kärner E, Treschow A, et al.
Lentiviral-mediated HoxB4 expression in human embryonic stem cells initiates early hematopoiesis in a dose-dependent manner but does not promote myeloid differentiation.
Stem Cells. 2008; 26(10):2455-66 [PubMed] Related Publications
The variation of HoxB4 expression levels might be a key regulatory mechanism in the differentiation of human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). In this study, hESCs ectopically expressing high and low levels of HoxB4 were obtained using lentiviral gene transfer. Quantification throughout differentiation revealed a steady increase in transcription levels from our constructs. The effects of the two expression levels of HoxB4 were compared regarding the differentiation potential into HSCs. High levels of HoxB4 expression correlated to an improved yield of cells expressing CD34, CD38, the stem cell leukemia gene, and vascular epithelium-cadherin. However, no improvement in myeloid cell maturation was observed, as determined by colony formation assays. In contrast, hESCs with low HoxB4 levels did not show any elevated hematopoietic development. In addition, we found that the total population of HoxB4-expressing cells, on both levels, decreased in developing embryoid bodies. Notably, a high HoxB4 expression in hESCs also seemed to interfere with the formation of germ layers after xenografting into immunodeficient mice. These data suggest that HoxB4-induced effects on hESC-derived HSCs are concentration-dependent during in vitro development and reduce proliferation of other cell types in vitro and in vivo. The application of the transcription factor HoxB4 during early hematopoiesis from hESCs might provide new means for regenerative medicine, allowing efficient differentiation and engraftment of genetically modified hESC clones. Our study highlights the importance of HoxB4 dosage and points to the need for experimental systems allowing controlled gene expression. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.

Larochelle A, Dunbar CE
HOXB4 and retroviral vectors: adding fuel to the fire.
J Clin Invest. 2008; 118(4):1350-3 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The transcription factor homeobox B4 (HOXB4) is a promising agent capable of providing a growth advantage to genetically modified hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). In this issue of the JCI, Zhang and colleagues overexpressed HOXB4 in HSPCs from large animals using retroviral vectors (see the related article beginning on page 1502). Two years after transplantation, most animals developed leukemia, a consequence of combined HOXB4 and deregulated protooncogene expression. These results highlight the risks of combining integrating vectors and growth-promoting genes for clinical applications.

Garzon R, Garofalo M, Martelli MP, et al.
Distinctive microRNA signature of acute myeloid leukemia bearing cytoplasmic mutated nucleophosmin.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008; 105(10):3945-50 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) carrying NPM1 mutations and cytoplasmic nucleophosmin (NPMc+ AML) accounts for about one-third of adult AML and shows distinct features, including a unique gene expression profile. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs of 19-25 nucleotides in length that have been linked to the development of cancer. Here, we investigated the role of miRNAs in the biology of NPMc+ AML. The miRNA expression was evaluated in 85 adult de novo AML patients characterized for subcellular localization/mutation status of NPM1 and FLT3 mutations using a custom microarray platform. Data were analyzed by using univariate t test within BRB tools. We identified a strong miRNA signature that distinguishes NPMc+ mutated (n = 55) from the cytoplasmic-negative (NPM1 unmutated) cases (n = 30) and includes the up-regulation of miR-10a, miR-10b, several let-7 and miR-29 family members. Many of the down-regulated miRNAs including miR-204 and miR-128a are predicted to target several HOX genes. Indeed, we confirmed that miR-204 targets HOXA10 and MEIS1, suggesting that the HOX up-regulation observed in NPMc+ AML may be due in part by loss of HOX regulators-miRNAs. FLT3-ITD+ samples were characterized by up-regulation of miR-155. Further experiments demonstrated that the up-regulation of miR-155 was independent from FLT3 signaling. Our results identify a unique miRNA signature associated with NPMc+ AML and provide evidence that support a role for miRNAs in the regulation of HOX genes in this leukemia subtype. Moreover, we found that miR-155 was strongly but independently associated with FLT3-ITD mutations.

Sengupta A, Banerjee D, Chandra S, et al.
Deregulation and cross talk among Sonic hedgehog, Wnt, Hox and Notch signaling in chronic myeloid leukemia progression.
Leukemia. 2007; 21(5):949-55 [PubMed] Related Publications
Deciphering the BCR-ABL-independent signaling exploited in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) progression is an important aspect in cancer stem-cell biology. CML stem-cell compartment is dynamic as it progresses to terminal blast crisis where myeloid and lymphoid blasts fail to differentiate. We demonstrate cross-regulation of signaling network involving Sonic hedgehog (Shh), Wnt, Notch and Hox for the inexorable blastic transformation of CD34(+) CML cells. Significant upregulation in Patched1, Frizzled2, Lef1, CyclinD1, p21 (P < or =0.0002) and downregulation of HoxA10 and HoxB4 (P< or =0.0001) transcripts in CD34(+) cells distinguish blast crisis from chronic CML. We report Shh-dependent Stat3 activation orchestrates these mutually interconnected signaling pathways. Stimulation of CD34(+) CML cells with either soluble Shh or Wnt3a did not activate Akt or p44/42-mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. Interestingly, unlike dominant negative Stat3beta, introduction of constitutive active Stat3 in CD34(+) CML cells induces cross-regulation in gene expression. Additionally, Shh and Wnt3a-dependent regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (CDKI) in CML suggests their role in the network. Taken together, our findings propose that deregulation in the form of hyperactive Shh and Wnt with repressed Notch and Hox pathways involving Stat3, Gli3, beta-catenin, CyclinD1, Hes1, HoxA10 and p21 might act synergistically to form an important hub in CML progression.

López R, Garrido E, Piña P, et al.
HOXB homeobox gene expression in cervical carcinoma.
Int J Gynecol Cancer. 2006 Jan-Feb; 16(1):329-35 [PubMed] Related Publications
The homeobox (HOX) genes are a family of transcription factors that bind to specific DNA sequences in target genes regulating gene expression. Thirty-nine HOX genes have been mapped in four conserved clusters: A, B, C, and D; they act as master genes regulating the identity of body segments along the anteroposterior axis of the embryo. The role played by HOX genes in adult cell differentiation is unclear to date, but growing evidence suggests that they may play an important role in the development of cancer. To study the role played by HOX genes in cervical cancer, in the present work, we analyzed the expression of HOXB genes and the localization of their transcripts in human cervical tissues. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis and nonradioactive RNA in situ hybridization were used to detect HOXB expression in 11 normal cervical tissues and 17 cervical carcinomas. It was determined that HOXB1, B3, B5, B6, B7, B8, and B9 genes are expressed in normal adult cervical epithelium and squamous cervical carcinomas. Interestingly, HOXB2, HOXB4, and HOXB13 gene expression was found only in tumor tissues. Our findings suggest that the new expression of HOXB2, HOXB4, and B13 genes is involved in cervical cancer.

Abramovich C, Pineault N, Ohta H, Humphries RK
Hox genes: from leukemia to hematopoietic stem cell expansion.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005; 1044:109-16 [PubMed] Related Publications
Hox genes are clearly implicated in leukemia; however, neither the specificity of the leukemogenic potential among Hox genes of different paralog groups nor the role of the homeodomain is clear. We tested the leukemogenic potential of various NUP98-Hox fusion genes alone and with MEIS1. All genes tested had a significant overlapping effect in bone marrow cells in vitro. However, not all formed strong leukemogenic NUP98 fusion genes; but together with overexpression of MEIS1, all induced myeloid leukemia. This phenomenon was also seen with NUP98 fusions containing only the homeodomain of the corresponding Hox protein. We then exploited the strong transforming potential of NUP98-HOXD13 and NUP98-HOXA10 to establish preleukemic myeloid lines composed of early myeloid progenitors with extensive in vitro self-renewal capacity, short-term myeloid repopulating activity, and low propensity for spontaneous leukemic conversion. We also showed that MEIS1 can efficiently induce their conversion to leukemic stem cells, thus providing a novel model for the study of leukemic progression. In contrast to the leukemogenic effect of most of the Hox genes tested, HOXB4 has the ability to increase the self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells without disrupting normal differentiation. On the basis of the discovery that the leukemogenic gene HOXA9 can also expand hematopoietic stem cells, we compared the ability of NUP98-Hox fusions to that of HOXB4 to trigger HSC expansion in vitro. Our preliminary results indicate that the expanding potential of HOXB4 is retained and even augmented by fusion to NUP98. Moreover, even greater expansion may be possible using Abd-B-like Hox fusions genes.

Pineault N, Abramovich C, Ohta H, Humphries RK
Differential and common leukemogenic potentials of multiple NUP98-Hox fusion proteins alone or with Meis1.
Mol Cell Biol. 2004; 24(5):1907-17 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
NUP98-Hox fusion genes are newly identified oncogenes isolated in myeloid leukemias. Intriguingly, only Abd-B Hox genes have been reported as fusion partners, indicating that they may have unique overlapping leukemogenic properties. To address this hypothesis, we engineered novel NUP98 fusions with Hox genes not previously identified as fusion partners: the Abd-B-like gene HOXA10 and two Antennepedia-like genes, HOXB3 and HOXB4. Notably, NUP98-HOXA10 and NUP98-HOXB3 but not NUP98-HOXB4 induced leukemia in a murine transplant model, which is consistent with the reported leukemogenic potential ability of HOXA10 and HOXB3 but not HOXB4. Thus, the ability of Hox genes to induce leukemia as NUP98 fusion partners, although apparently redundant for Abd-B-like activity, is not restricted to this group, but rather is determined by the intrinsic leukemogenic potential of the Hox partner. We also show that the potent leukemogenic activity of Abd-B-like Hox genes is correlated with their strong ability to block hematopoietic differentiation. Conversely, coexpression of the Hox cofactor Meis1 alleviated the requirement of a strong intrinsic Hox-transforming potential to induce leukemia. Our results support a model in which many if not all Hox genes can be leukemogenic and point to striking functional overlap not previously appreciated, presumably reflecting common regulated pathways.

Certa U, Seiler M, Padovan E, Spagnoli GC
Interferon-a sensitivity in melanoma cells: detection of potential response marker genes.
Recent Results Cancer Res. 2002; 160:85-91 [PubMed] Related Publications
Interferon alpha (IFN-alpha) represents an adjuvant therapy of proven effectiveness in increasing disease-free interval and survival in subgroups of melanoma patients. Since high doses of cytokine are required, the treatment is often accompanied by toxic side effects. In addition, naturally occurring insensitivity to IFN-alpha may hamper its therapeutic efficacy. Clinical, molecular or immunological markers enabling the selection of potential responders have not so far been identified. To explore the molecular basis of IFN-alpha responsiveness, we analyzed the expression pattern of about 7000 genes in IFN-alpha-sensitive and IFN-alpha-resistant cell lines using high-density oligonucleotide arrays. Melanoma cell lines were screened for their sensitivity to proliferation inhibition and HLA class I induction by IFN-alpha by standard 3H-thymidine incorporation and flow cytometry. Total cellular RNA from four sensitive and two resistant cell lines was extracted, reverse-transcribed and hybridized to high-density oligonucleotide arrays. The comparative analysis of gene expression in either set of cell lines allowed the identification of four genes (RCCl, IFI16, hox2 and h19) preferentially transcribed in sensitive cells and two (SHB and PKC-zeta) preferentially expressed in resistant cells. These data may provide a useful basis for the development of diagnostic tools to select potential IFN-alpha responders as eligible for treatment, while avoiding unnecessary toxicity to nonresponders.

Certa U, Seiler M, Padovan E, Spagnoli GC
High density oligonucleotide array analysis of interferon- alpha2a sensitivity and transcriptional response in melanoma cells.
Br J Cancer. 2001; 85(1):107-14 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Interferon alpha (IFN-alpha) represents an adjuvant therapy of proven effectiveness in increasing disease-free interval and survival in subgroups of melanoma patients. Since high doses of cytokine are required, the treatment is often accompanied by toxic side effects. Furthermore, naturally occurring insensitivity to IFN-alpha may hamper its therapeutic efficacy. Clinical, molecular or immunological markers enabling the selection of potential responders have not been identified so far. To explore the molecular basis of IFN-alpha responsiveness, we analysed the expression pattern of about 7000 genes in IFN-alpha sensitive and resistant cell lines and we compared the transcription profiles of cells cultured in the presence or absence of the cytokine using high-density oligonucleotide arrays. Melanoma cell lines were screened for their sensitivity to proliferation inhibition and HLA class I induction upon IFN-alpha treatment by standard 3H-thymidine incorporation and flow-cytometry. The study of 4 sensitive and 2 resistant cell lines allowed the identification of 4 genes (RCC1, IFI16, hox2 and h19) preferentially transcribed in sensitive cells and 2 (SHB and PKC-zeta) preferentially expressed in resistant cells. IFN-alpha stimulation resulted in the expression of a panel of 19 known inducible genes in sensitive but not in resistant cells. Moreover a group of 30 novel IFN-alpha inducible genes was identified. These data may provide a useful basis to develop diagnostic tools to select potential IFN-alpha responders eligible for treatment, while avoiding unnecessary toxicity to non-responders. Furthermore, by extending the knowledge of the polymorphic effects of IFN-alpha on gene expression, they offer novel clues to the study of its pleiotropic toxicity.

Giannola DM, Shlomchik WD, Jegathesan M, et al.
Hematopoietic expression of HOXB4 is regulated in normal and leukemic stem cells through transcriptional activation of the HOXB4 promoter by upstream stimulating factor (USF)-1 and USF-2.
J Exp Med. 2000; 192(10):1479-90 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The homeobox genes encode a family of transcription factors that regulate development and postnatal tissue homeostasis. Since HOXB4 plays a key role in regulating the balance between hematopoietic stem cell renewal and differentiation, we studied the molecular regulation of HOXB4 expression in human hematopoietic stem cells. HOXB4 expression in K562 cells is regulated at the level of transcription, and transient transfection defines primary HOXB4 regulatory sequences within a 99-bp 5' promoter. Culture of highly purified human CD34(+) bone marrow cells in thrombopoietin/Flt-3 ligand/stem cell factor induced HOXB4 3-10-fold, whereas culture in granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor, only increased HOXB4/luciferase expression 20-50%. Mutations within the HOXB4 promoter identified a potential E box binding site (HOX response element [HXRE]-2) as the most critical regulatory sequence, and yeast one hybrid assays evaluating bone marrow and K562 libraries for HXRE-2 interaction identified upstream stimulating factor (USF)-2 and micropthalmia transcription factor (MITF). Electrophoretic mobility shift assay with K562 extracts confirmed that these proteins, along with USF-1, bind to the HOXB4 promoter in vitro. Cotransfection assays in both K562 and CD34(+) cells showed that USF-1 and USF-2, but not MITF, induce the HOXB4 promoter in response to signals stimulating stem cell self-renewal, through activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. Thus hematopoietic expression of the human HOXB4 gene is regulated by the binding of USF-1 and USF-2, and this process may be favored by cytokines promoting stem cell self-renewal versus differentiation.

Bodey B, Bodey B, Siegel SE, Kaiser HE
Immunocytochemical detection of the homeobox B3, B4, and C6 gene products in breast carcinomas.
Anticancer Res. 2000 Sep-Oct; 20(5A):3281-6 [PubMed] Related Publications
Breast cancer (BC) represents the most frequent neoplasm in women with a risk of incidence between 10% and 12%. The detection of tumor associated and oncofetal antigen re-expression in a variety of neoplastically transformed cell types has aided in the more precise diagnosis and prognostication of human cancers. The homeobox (HOX) genes encode proteins which contain a 61 amino acid DNA-binding homeodomain and are involved in the transcriptional regulation of other genes during normal onto- and histogenesis. The class I HOX genes are organized in four clusters on different chromosomes in humans, with a high conservation in the order of the genes within each of these clusters. Re-expression of HOX gene products has been reported in a wide variety of neoplastically transformed cells and it seems quite likely that the HOX genes represent yet another class of oncofetal antigens involved in both normal development and carcinogenesis, as well as tumor progression. The expression pattern of three HOX gene products (HOX-B3, -B4, and -C6) was examined immunocytochemically in 11 human breast carcinoma (BC) tissues. In all observed BC cases, HOX-C6 was present in over 90% of the neoplastically transformed cells (+4) demonstrating a high grade (A and B) staining intensity. The same expression pattern was defined for the other two observed proteins (HOX-B3 and -B4; over 90% or +4 and a high grade staining intensity or A and B). Current treatment of BC encompasses the three "classic" modalities of therapy: surgical resection, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Although advances have been made, we still face great difficulties in the treatment of this deadly human neoplasm. Therefore, we are always seeking novel tumor associated antigens (TAAs), including oncofetal antigens, to use as molecular targets in cancer cell directed fourth modality immunotherapy.

Bodey B, Bodey B, Siegel SE, et al.
Homeobox B3, B4, and C6 gene product expression in osteosarcomas as detected by immunocytochemistry.
Anticancer Res. 2000 Jul-Aug; 20(4):2717-21 [PubMed] Related Publications
Osteosarcoma (OS) is a malignant neoplastic disease of the bone, of mesenchymal origin and with considerable morphologic heterogeneity, consisting of malignant stoma with evidence of malignant osteoid, bone and/or cartilage production. The mammalian homeobox (HOX) represents a highly conserved DNA motif of 183 base pairs, encoding the 61 amino acid DNA-binding homeodomain, through which the HOX gene products regulate the transcription of other genes involved in onto- and histogenesis. Re-expression of HOX proteins has been identified in a wide variety of neoplastically transformed cell types and it seems that the HOX genes represent yet another family of oncofetal antigens involved in both normal development and oncogenesis, as well as tumor tissue progression. During this study, the expression pattern of three HOX gene products (HOX-C6, -B3, and -B4) was examined immunocytochemically in human osteosarcoma (OS) tissues. In all observed (16/16) OS cases, HOX-C6 was present in over 90% of the neoplastically transformed cells (+4), demonstrating a high to medium grade (A to B) staining intensity. Similar results were obtained in OS cells for the other two observed proteins (HOX-B3 and -B4; over 90% or +4 and a high to medium grade staining intensity or A and B). The significance of the expression of class I HOX proteins in the pathobiology, diagnosis and prognostication of human OS should be established by further investigations.

Bodey B, Bodey B, Gröger AM, et al.
Immunocytochemical detection of homeobox B3, B4, and C6 gene product expression in lung carcinomas.
Anticancer Res. 2000 Jul-Aug; 20(4):2711-6 [PubMed] Related Publications
The so-called homebox (HOX) was described as a highly conserved DNA motif of 183 base pairs, encoding the 61 amino acid DNA-binding homeodomain. Numerous HOX genes have subsequently been shown to bind to DNA and regulate the transcription of other genes. In humans the class I HOX genes are placed in four clusters on different chromosomes. The order of the genes within each of these clusters is evolutionarily conserved to a high degree and suggests that such an organization may be essential in the function of these genes during normal embryo- and histogenesis. Re-expression of HOX gene products has been reported in a wide variety of neoplastically transformed cells and it seems very likely that the HOX genes represent yet another class of oncofetal antigens involved in both normal development and cellular carcinogenesis, as well as tumor progression. The expression pattern of three homeobox gene products (HOX-B3, HOX-B4, and HOX-C6), all shown to be involved in lung tissue development, was examined immunocytochemically, in human lung carcinoma (LC) tissues. In all observed LC cases, HOX-C6 was present in over 60% of neoplastic cells (+3) demonstrating a medium grade (B and C) staining intensity. A smaller number of neoplastically transformed epithelial cells also expressed the proteins HOX-B3 and -B4 (10% to 60% or +2 to +3 and a medium grade staining intensity or B and C). The significance of these novel oncofetal antigens in tumor cell biology and as target molecules in the immunotherapy of lung carcinomas should be established by future studies.

Raman V, Tamori A, Vali M, et al.
HOXA5 regulates expression of the progesterone receptor.
J Biol Chem. 2000; 275(34):26551-5 [PubMed] Related Publications
The majority of breast carcinomas show reduced or no expression of the transcription factor, HOXA5. Recently, we have shown that HOXA5 is a potent transactivator of p53 in breast cells and thus may affect the response of breast cancer cells to DNA damage. To determine whether HOXA5 played a role in growth and homeostasis in breast cells, we studied its interaction with the progesterone receptor. The progesterone receptor (PR) belongs to the superfamily of nuclear receptors whose members co-ordinate morphogenesis of the mammary gland in response to binding to their cognate ligands. An increased expression of the endogenous PR gene was seen in MCF-7 cells following induced expression of an exogenously transfected HOXA5 gene. HOXA5, but not HOXB4, -B5, or -B7 activated the PR promoter in two breast cancer cell lines, MCF-7 and Hs578T. Deletion and mutation analysis of the promoter identified a single HOXA5-binding site required for transactivation of the PR gene by HOXA5. HOXA5 binds directly to this site in the PR promoter. Thus, HOXA5 may behave as a transcriptional regulator of multiple target genes, two among which are p53 and the progesterone receptor.

Kawagoe H, Humphries RK, Blair A, et al.
Expression of HOX genes, HOX cofactors, and MLL in phenotypically and functionally defined subpopulations of leukemic and normal human hematopoietic cells.
Leukemia. 1999; 13(5):687-98 [PubMed] Related Publications
To explore the possibility that deregulated HOX gene expression might commonly occur during leukemic hematopoiesis, we compared the relative levels of expression of these and related genes in phenotypically and functionally defined subpopulations of AML blasts and normal hematopoietic cells. Initially, a semi-quantitative RT-PCR technique was used to amplify total cDNA from total leukemic blast cell populations from 20 AML patients and light density cells from four normal bone marrows. Expression of HOX genes (A9, A10, B3 and B4), MEIS1 and MLL was easily detected in the majority of AML samples with the exception of two samples from patients with AML subtype M3 (which expressed only MLL). Low levels of HOXA9 and A10 but not B3 or B4 were seen in normal marrow while MLL was easily detected. PBX1a was difficult to detect in any AML sample but was seen in three of four normal marrows. Cells from nine AML patients and five normal bone marrows were FACS-sorted into CD34+CD38-, CD34+CD38+ and CD34-subpopulations, analyzed for their functional properties in long-term culture (LTC) and colony assays, and for gene expression using RT-PCR. 93 +/- 14% of AML LTC-initiating cells, 92 +/- 14% AML colony-forming cells, and >99% of normal LTC-IC and CFC were CD34+. The relative level of expression of the four HOX genes in amplified cDNA from CD34- as compared to CD34+CD38- normal cells was reduced >10-fold. However, in AML samples this down-regulation in HOX expression in CD34- as compared to CD34+CD38- cells was not seen (P < 0.05 for comparison between AML and normal). A similar difference between normal and AML subpopulations was seen when the relative levels of expression of MEIS1, and to a lesser extent MLL, were compared in CD34+ and CD34- cells (P < 0.05). In contrast, while some evidence of down-regulation of PBX1a was found in comparing CD34- to CD34+ normal cells it was difficult to detect expression of this gene in any subpopulation from most AML samples. Thus, the down-regulation of HOX, MEIS1 and to some extent MLL which occurs with normal hematopoietic differentiation is not seen in AML cells with similar functional and phenotypic properties.

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