STK31 maintains the undifferentiated state of colon cancer cells.

PMID 22828137


The expression of serine/threonine kinase (STK) family is frequently altered in human cancers. However, the functions of these kinases in cancer development remain elusive. Here, we report that STK31 is robustly and heterogeneously expressed in colon cancer tissues and plays a critical role in determining the differentiation state of colon cancer cells. Knockdown or overexpression of STK31 induced or inhibited differentiation of colon cancer cells, respectively. Deletion of the STK domain abolished the inhibiting effect of STK31. Associated with differentiation, knockdown of STK31 resulted in significant suppression of tumorigenicity both in vitro and in vivo. Genome microarray analysis showed that knockdown of STK31 altered the expression profile of genes that are known to be involved in germ cell and cancer differentiation. Taken together, these results suggest that STK31 is able to control the differentiation state of colon cancer cells, which critically depends on its STK domain. The present findings may shed light on the new therapeutic approach against cancer by targeting STK31 and cancer differentiation.