PloS one

Expression profiles of SnoN in normal and cancerous human tissues support its tumor suppressor role in human cancer.

PMID 23418461


SnoN is a negative regulator of TGF-β signaling and also an activator of the tumor suppressor p53 in response to cellular stress. Its role in human cancer is complex and controversial with both pro-oncogenic and anti-oncogenic activities reported. To clarify its role in human cancer and provide clinical relevance to its signaling activities, we examined SnoN expression in normal and cancerous human esophageal, ovarian, pancreatic and breast tissues. In normal tissues, SnoN is expressed in both the epithelium and the surrounding stroma at a moderate level and is predominantly cytoplasmic. SnoN levels in all tumor epithelia examined are lower than or similar to that in the matched normal samples, consistent with its anti-tumorigenic activity in epithelial cells. In contrast, SnoN expression in the stroma is highly upregulated in the infiltrating inflammatory cells in high-grade esophageal and ovarian tumor samples, suggesting that SnoN may potentially promote malignant progression through modulating the tumor microenvironment in these tumor types. The overall levels of SnoN expression in these cancer tissues do not correlate with the p53 status. However, in human cancer cell lines with amplification of the snoN gene, a strong correlation between increased SnoN copy number and inactivation of p53 was detected, suggesting that the tumor suppressor SnoN-p53 pathway must be inactivated, either through downregulation of SnoN or inactivation of p53, in order to allow cancer cell to proliferate and survive. These data strongly suggest that SnoN can function as a tumor suppressor at early stages of tumorigenesis in human cancer tissues.