UNLABELLED Oncogenic activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is common in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Our recent studies have demonstrated that SRY (sex determining region Y)-box 1 (SOX1) and secreted frizzled-related proteins are concomitantly promoter-hypermethylated, and this might lead to abnormal activation of the Wnt signaling pathway in HCC. SOX1 encodes a transcription factor involved in the regulation of embryonic development and cell fate determination. However, the expression and functional role of SOX1 in HCC remains unclear. In this study, we confirmed via quantitative methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction that SOX1 was frequently downregulated through promoter hypermethylation in HCC cells and tissues. Overexpression of SOX1 by a constitutive or inducible approach could suppress cell proliferation, colony formation, and invasion ability in HCC cell lines, as well as tumor growth in nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficiency mice. Conversely, knockdown of SOX1 by withdrawal of doxycycline could partially restore cell proliferation and colony formation in HCC cells. We used a T cell factor (TCF)-responsive luciferase reporter assay and western blot analysis to prove that SOX1 could regulate TCF-responsive transcriptional activity and inhibit the expression of Wnt downstream genes. Furthermore, we used glutathione S-transferase pull-down, co-immunoprecipitation, and confocal microscopy to demonstrate that SOX1 could interact with β-catenin but not with the β-catenin/TCF complex. Moreover, restoration of the expression of SOX1 induces significant cellular senescence in Hep3B cells. CONCLUSION Our data show that a developmental gene, SOX1, may function as a tumor suppressor by interfering with Wnt/β-catenin signaling in the development of HCC.
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