HMGA1 silencing restores normal stem cell characteristics in colon cancer stem cells by increasing p53 levels

Francesca Puca, Marianna Colamaio, Antonella Federico, Marica Gemei, Nadia Tosti, André Uchimura Bastos, Luigi Del Vecchio, Salvatore Pece, Sabrina Battista, Alfredo Fusco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-mobility group A1 (HMGA1) proteins are architectural chromatinic proteins, abundantly expressed during embryogenesis and in most cancer tissues, but expressed at low levels or absent in normal adult tissues. Several studies have demonstrated that HMGA1 proteins play a causal role in neoplastic cell transformation. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of these proteins in the control of cancer stem cells (CSCs), which have emerged as a preferred target in cancer therapy, because of their role in cancer recurrence. We observed that HMGA1 is overexpressed in colon tumour stem cell (CTSC) lines compared to normal and colon cancer tissues. We demonstrated that HMGA1 silencing in CTSCs increases stem cell quiescence and reduces self-renewal and sphere-forming efficiency (SFE). The latter, together with the upregulation and asymmetric distribution of NUMB, is indicative of the recovery of an asymmetric division pattern, typical of normal stem cells. We further found that HMGA1 transcriptionally regulates p53, which is known to control the balance between symmetric and asymmetric divisions in CSCs. Therefore, our data indicate a critical role for HMGA1 in regulating both self-renewal and the symmetric/asymmetric division ratio in CSCs, suggesting that blocking HMGA1 function may be an effective anti-cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3234-3245
Number of pages12
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Cancer stem cells
  • Colon carcinoma
  • HMGA1
  • NUMB
  • P53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Medicine(all)


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