Ph.D. Human Genetics, Yale University
Metastasis is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in cancer that involves in multiple steps including epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) process. Centrosome is an organelle that functions as the major microtubule organizing center (MTOC), and centrosome abnormalities are commonly correlated with tumor aggressiveness. However, the conclusive mechanisms indicating specific centrosomal proteins participated in tumor progression and metastasis remain largely unknown.
The expression levels of centriolar/centrosomal genes in various types of cancers were first examined by in silico analysis of the data derived from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO), and European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) datasets. The expression of STIL (SCL/TAL1-interrupting locus) protein in clinical specimens was further assessed by Immunohistochemistry (IHC) analysis and the oncogenic roles of STIL in tumorigenesis were analyzed using in vitro and in vivo assays, including cell migration, invasion, xenograft tumor formation, and metastasis assays. The transcriptome differences between low- and high-STIL expression cells were analyzed by RNA-seq to uncover candidate genes involved in oncogenic pathways. The quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and reporter assays were performed to confirm the results. The chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-qPCR assay was applied to demonstrate the binding of transcriptional factors to the promoter.
The expression of STIL shows the most significant increase in lung and various other types of cancers, and is highly associated with patients’ survival rate. Depletion of STIL inhibits tumor growth and metastasis. Interestingly, excess STIL activates the EMT pathway, and subsequently enhances cancer cell migration and invasion. Importantly, we reveal an unexpected role of STIL in tumor metastasis. A subset of STIL translocate into nucleus and associate with FOXM1 (Forkhead box protein M1) to promote tumor metastasis and stemness via FOXM1-mediated downstream target genes. Furthermore, we demonstrate that hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α) directly binds to the STIL promoter and upregulates STIL expression under hypoxic condition.
Our findings indicate that STIL promotes tumor metastasis through the HIF1α-STIL-FOXM1 axis, and highlight the importance of STIL as a promising therapeutic target for lung cancer treatment.