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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Tbx3 represses PTEN and is over-expressed in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Durmus Burgucu1, Kenan Guney2, Duygu Sahinturk3, Irem Hicran Ozbudak4, Deniz Ozel5, Gulay Ozbilim4 and Ugur Yavuzer1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Akdeniz University, Antalya, 07058, Turkey

2 Department of Ear-Nose and Throat Head and Neck Surgery, School of Medicine, Akdeniz University, Antalya, 07058, Turkey

3 Life Sciences Research and Application Centre, Akdeniz University, Antalya, 07058, Turkey

4 Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, Akdeniz University, Antalya, 07058, Turkey

5 Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, School of Medicine, Akdeniz University, Antalya, 07058, Turkey

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Citation and License

BMC Cancer 2012, 12:481  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-481

Published: 19 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Despite advances in diagnostic and treatment strategies, head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) constitutes one of the worst cancer types in terms of prognosis. PTEN is one of the tumour suppressors whose expression and/or activity have been found to be reduced in HNSCC, with rather low rates of mutations within the PTEN gene (6-8%). We reasoned that low expression levels of PTEN might be due to a transcriptional repression governed by an oncogene. Tbx2 and Tbx3, both of which are transcriptional repressors, have been found to be amplified or over-expressed in various cancer types. Thus, we hypothesize that Tbx3 may be over expressed in HNSCC and may repress PTEN, thus leading to cancer formation and/or progression.

Methods

Using immunohistochemistry and quantitative PCR (qPCR), protein and mRNA levels of PTEN and Tbx3 were identified in samples excised from cancerous and adjacent normal tissues from 33 patients who were diagnosed with HNSCC. In addition, HeLa and HEK cell lines were transfected with a Tbx3 expressing plasmid and endogenous PTEN mRNA and protein levels were determined via qPCR and flow cytometry. Transcription assays were performed to demonstrate effects of Tbx3 on PTEN promoter activity. Mann–Whitney, Spearman’s Correlation and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were used to analyze the data.

Results

We demonstrate that in HNSCC samples, Tbx3 mRNA levels are increased with respect to their normal tissue counterparts (p<0.001), whereas PTEN mRNA levels are significantly reduced in cancer tissues. Moreover, Tbx3 protein is also increased in HNSCC tissue sections. Over-expression of Tbx3 in HeLa and HEK cell lines causes reduction in endogenous PTEN mRNA and protein levels. In addition, transcription activity assays reveal that Tbx3 is capable of repressing both the basal and induced promoter activity of PTEN.

Conclusions

We show that Tbx3 is up-regulated in tissue samples of HNSCC patients and that Tbx3 represses PTEN transcription. Thus, our data not only reveals a new mechanism that may be important in cancer formation, but also suggests that Tbx3 can be used as a potential biomarker in cancer.

Keywords:
Tbx3; PTEN; Cancer; Squamous cell carcinoma