SOX9 is a dose-dependent metastatic fate determinant in melanoma

Xintao Yang, Rui Liang, Chunxi Liu, Jessica Aijia Liu, May Pui Lai Cheung, Xuelai Liu, On Ying Man, Xin Yuan Guan, Hong Lok Lung, Martin Cheung

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    Background: In this research, we aimed to resolve contradictory results whether SOX9 plays a positive or negative role in melanoma progression and determine whether SOX9 and its closely related member SOX10 share the same or distinct targets in mediating their functions in melanoma. Methods: Immunofluorescence, TCGA database and qPCR were used to analyze the correlation between the expression patterns and levels of SOX9, SOX10 and NEDD9 in melanoma patient samples. AlamarBlue, transwell invasion and colony formation assays in melanoma cell lines were conducted to investigate the epistatic relationship between SOX10 and NEDD9, as well as the effects of graded SOX9 expression levels. Lung metastasis was determined by tail vein injection assay. Live cell imaging was conducted to monitor dynamics of melanoma migratory behavior. RHOA and RAC1 activation assays measured the activity of Rho GTPases. Results: High SOX9 expression was predominantly detected in patients with distant melanoma metastases whereas SOX10 was present in the different stages of melanoma. Both SOX9 and SOX10 exhibited distinct but overlapping expression patterns with metastatic marker NEDD9. Accordingly, SOX10 was required for NEDD9 expression, which partly mediated its oncogenic functions in melanoma cells. Compensatory upregulation of SOX9 expression in SOX10-inhibited melanoma cells reduced growth and migratory capacity, partly due to elevated expression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 and lack of NEDD9 induction. Conversely, opposite phenomenon was observed when SOX9 expression was further elevated to a range of high SOX9 expression levels in metastatic melanoma specimens, and that high levels of SOX9 can restore melanoma progression in the absence of SOX10 both in vitro and in vivo. In addition, overexpression of SOX9 can also promote invasiveness of the parental melanoma cells by modulating the expression of various matrix metalloproteinases. SOX10 or high SOX9 expression regulates melanoma mesenchymal migration through the NEDD9-mediated focal adhesion dynamics and Rho GTPase signaling. Conclusions: These results unravel NEDD9 as a common target for SOX10 or high SOX9 to partly mediate their oncogenic events, and most importantly, reconcile previous discrepancies that suboptimal level of SOX9 expression is anti-metastatic whereas high level of SOX9 is metastatic in a heterogeneous population of melanoma.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number17
    JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 14 2019


    • Melanoma
    • Metastatic
    • NEDD9
    • RAC1
    • RHOA
    • SOX9; SOX10
    • p21

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Oncology
    • Cancer Research

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  • Cite this

    Yang, X., Liang, R., Liu, C., Liu, J. A., Cheung, M. P. L., Liu, X., Man, O. Y., Guan, X. Y., Lung, H. L., & Cheung, M. (2019). SOX9 is a dose-dependent metastatic fate determinant in melanoma. Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research, 38(1), [17].