The Journal of biological chemistry

The transcription factor SOX9 regulates cell cycle and differentiation genes in chondrocytic CFK2 cells.

PMID 11514554


SOX9 is a transcription factor that is essential for chondrocyte differentiation and cartilage formation. We stably overexpressed SOX9 cDNA in the rat chondrocytic cell line CFK2. Compared with the vector control, a greater proportion of SOX9-transfected cells accumulated in the G0/G1 phase. This was associated with an increase in mRNA and protein expression of p21(cip1), an inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase activity. SOX9 enhanced p21(cip1) promoter activity in a luciferase reporter assay. CFK2 cells overexpressing SOX9 became more elongated and adhesive and demonstrated a shift in cytoplasmic F-actin distribution. N-cadherin mRNA levels were elevated in the SOX9-transfected cells, and SOX9 enhanced N-cadherin promoter activity. By electrophoretic mobility shift assay, nuclear extracts of SOX9-transfected CFK2 cells specifically bound an oligonucleotide comprising an N-cadherin promoter region containing a consensus SOX9-binding motif. The transcriptional activity of SOX9 depended upon nuclear localization signals required for SOX9 nuclear entry. Differentiation of transfected CFK2 cells was accelerated as evidenced by more rapid accumulation of alkaline phosphatase activity, increased production of proteoglycans, and increased calcium accumulation, and this was associated with decreased ERK1 expression. These studies demonstrate that SOX9 alters the rate of cell cycle progression of chondrocytes and their differentiation by enhancing or inhibiting the expression of selected genes, including p21(cip1) and ERK1, and that N-cadherin is an additional direct target of this transcriptional regulator.