HOXB7: A key factor for tumor-associated angiogenic switch

A. Carè, F. Felicetti, E. Meccia, L. Bottero, M. Parenza, A. Stoppacciaro, C. Peschle, M. P. Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We had demonstrated previously a functional bridge between altered homebox (HOX) gene expression and tumor progression through HOXB7 transactivation of basic fibroblast growth factor. Here, we have studied whether HOXB7, in addition to basic fibroblast growth factor, may induce other genes directly or indirectly related to neoangiogenesis and tumor invasion. Parental, β-galactosidase-transduced, and HOXB7-transduced SkBr3 cell lines were examined for the expression of several growth factors and growth factor receptors involved in the proliferative and angiogenic processes. Vascular endothelial growth factor, melanoma growth-stimulatory activity/growth-related oncogenene α, interleukin-8, and angiopoietin-2 were up-regulated by HOXB7 transduction. The exception was angiopoietin-1 expression that was abrogated. Additional analyses included the expression levels of enzymes such as matrix metalloprotease (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 and heparanase, capable of proteolytic degradation of extracellular matrix and basement membranes. Results showed an induction of only MMP-9. The functional implication of such a finding was tested using an in vitro coculture assay in a three-dimensional matrix. A delay of differentiation with persistent nests of proliferating cells was found in endothelial cells cocultured with HOXB7-transduced SkBr3 cells. Tumorigenicity of these cells has been evaluated in vivo. Xenograft into athymic nude mice showed that SkBr3/HOXB7 cells developed tumors in mice, either irradiated or not, whereas parental SkBr3 cells did not show any tumor take unless mice were sublethally irradiated. Comparison of tumor nodules for vascularization by CD-31 and CD-34 immunostaining revealed an increased number of blood vessels in tumors expressing HOXB7. Together, the results indicate HOXB7 as a key factor up-regulating a variety of proangiogenic stimuli. Thus, HOXB7 gene or protein is a target to aim at to inhibit tumor-associated neoangiogenesis, considering the number and the redundancy of proangiogenic molecules that should be targeted one by one to theoretically achieve the same effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6532-6539
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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