Cancer biology & therapy

QKI impairs self-renewal and tumorigenicity of oral cancer cells via repression of SOX2.

PMID 24918581


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) may contribute to tumor initiation, distant metastasis and chemo-resistance. One of RNA-binding proteins, Quaking (QKI), was reported to be a tumor suppressor. Here we showed that reduced QKI levels were observed in many human oral cancer samples. Moreover further reduction of QKI expression in CSCs was detected compared with non-CSCs in oral cancer cell lines. Overexpressing QKI in oral cancer cells significantly reduced CSC sphere formation and stem cell-associated genes. In tumor implanting nude mice model, QKI significantly impeded tumor initiation rates, tumor sizes and lung metastasis rates. As a contrast, knocking down QKI enhanced the above effects. Among the putative CSC target genes, SOX2 expression was negatively affected by QKI, mechanism study revealed that QKI may directly regulate SOX2 expression via specific binding with its 3'UTR in a cis element-dependent way. Loss of SOX2 even completely reversed the sphere forming ability in QKI knockdown cell line. Taken together, these data demonstrated that SOX2 is an important CSC regulator in oral cancer. QKI is a novel CSC inhibitor and impaired multiple oral CSC properties via partial repression of SOX2. Therefore, reduced expression of QKI may provide a novel diagnostic marker for oral cancer.