Lizárraga-Verdugo E, et al. J Oncol 2020.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most frequent types of malignancies and one of the major causes of cancer-related death worldwide. Sex-determining region Y (SRY)-box 9 protein (SOX9) is a member of the SOX family of transcription factors which are involved in the regulation of differentiation and development. Recently, several reports suggest an important role of SOX9 in tumorigenesis since its overexpression correlates with tumor progression and poor outcome in several types of cancer;
however, its role in CRC is not clear until now. Therefore, in this work, we searched for novel SOX9-regulated genes involved in cell survival of CRC. We silenced SOX9 in the poorly differentiated HCT-116 cell line, using a specific siRNA, to identify differential expressed genes by DNA microarrays and analyzed the role or candidate genes in apoptosis and autophagy. Transcriptome analysis showed that diverse cellular pathways, associated with CRC carcinogenesis such as Wnt/β-catenin, MAPK, TGF-β, and mTOR, were modulated after SOX9 silencing. Interestingly, we found that SOX9 silencing promotes downregulation of BCL2L1 and overexpression of CASP3, proteins related to apoptosis, which was further confirmed in SW-480, a moderated-differentiated cell line, but not in HT-29, well-differentiated cell line. Moreover, inhibition of BCL2L1 by ABT-737 (BH3 mimetic) in SOX9-silenced HCT-116 cells resulted in an increased apoptosis percentage. However, downregulation of BCL2L1 was not enough to induce autophagy. This is the first report, suggesting that cell survival in poorly and moderated-differentiated CRC cells lines is regulated by SOX9/BCL2L1 axis, but not in well-differentiated cell lines.