BMC cancer

High-level inducible Smad4-reexpression in the cervical cancer cell line C4-II is associated with a gene expression profile that predicts a preferential role of Smad4 in extracellular matrix composition.

PMID 17997817


Smad4 is a tumour suppressor frequently inactivated in pancreatic and colorectal cancers. We have recently reported loss of Smad4 in every fourth carcinoma of the uterine cervix. Smad4 transmits signals from the TGF-beta superfamily of cytokines and functions as a versatile transcriptional co-modulator. The prevailing view suggests that the tumour suppressor function of Smad4 primarily resides in its capability to mediate TGF-beta growth inhibitory responses. However, accumulating evidence indicates, that the acquisition of TGF-beta resistance and loss of Smad4 may be independent events in the carcinogenic process. Through inducible reexpression of Smad4 in cervical cancer cells we wished to shed more light on this issue and to identify target genes implicated in Smad4 dependent tumor suppression. Smad4-deficient human C4-II cervical carcinoma cells were used to establish inducible Smad4 reexpression using the commercial Tet-ontrade mark system (Clontech). The impact of Smad4 reexpression on cell growth was analysed in vitro and in vivo. Transcriptional responses were assessed through profiling on cDNA macroarrays (Clontech) and validated through Northern blotting. Clones were obtained that express Smad4 at widely varying levels from approximately physiological to 50-fold overexpression. Smad4-mediated tumour suppression in vivo was apparent at physiological expression levels as well as in Smad4 overexpressing clones. Smad4 reexpression in a dose-dependent manner was associated with transcriptional induction of the extracellular matrix-associated genes, BigH3, fibronectin and PAI-1, in response to TGF-beta. Smad4-dependent regulation of these secreted Smad4 targets is not restricted to cervical carcinoma cells and was confirmed in pancreatic carcinoma cells reexpressing Smad4 after retroviral transduction and in a stable Smad4 knockdown model. On the other hand, the classical cell cycle-associated TGF-beta target genes, c-myc, p21 and p15, remained unaltered. Our results show that Smad4-mediated tumour suppression in cervical cancer cells is not due to restoration of TGF-beta growth inhibitory responses. Rather, tumour cell-ECM interactions may be more relevant for Smad4-mediated tumour suppression. C4-II cells with a high level inducible Smad4 expression may serve as a model to indicate further Smad4 targets responsive to diverse environmental stimuli operative in vivo.