Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

COX-2 gene expression in colon cancer tissue related to regulating factors and promoter methylation status

Annika Gustafsson Asting1, Helena Carén2, Marianne Andersson1, Christina Lönnroth1, Kristina Lagerstedt1 and Kent Lundholm1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Sahlgrenska Academy, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden

2 Department of Clinical Genetics, Institute of Biomedicine, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:238  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-238

Published: 13 June 2011



Increased cyclooxygenase activity promotes progression of colorectal cancer, but the mechanisms behind COX-2 induction remain elusive. This study was therefore aimed to define external cell signaling and transcription factors relating to high COX-2 expression in colon cancer tissue.


Tumor and normal colon tissue were collected at primary curative operation in 48 unselected patients. COX-2 expression in tumor and normal colon tissue was quantified including microarray analyses on tumor mRNA accounting for high and low tumor COX-2 expression. Cross hybridization was performed between tumor and normal colon tissue. Methylation status of up-stream COX-2 promoter region was evaluated.


Tumors with high COX-2 expression displayed large differences in gene expression compared to normal colon. Numerous genes with altered expression appeared in tumors of high COX-2 expression compared to tumors of low COX-2. COX-2 expression in normal colon was increased in patients with tumors of high COX-2 compared to normal colon from patients with tumors of low COX-2. IL1β, IL6 and iNOS transcripts were up-regulated among external cell signaling factors; nine transcription factors (ATF3, C/EBP, c-Fos, Fos-B, JDP2, JunB, c-Maf, NF-κB, TCF4) showed increased expression and 5 (AP-2, CBP, Elk-1, p53, PEA3) were decreased in tumors with high COX-2. The promoter region of COX-2 gene did not show consistent methylation in tumor or normal colon tissue.


Transcription and external cell signaling factors are altered as covariates to COX-2 expression in colon cancer tissue, but DNA methylation of the COX-2 promoter region was not a significant factor behind COX-2 expression in tumor and normal colon tissue.