Aims: Other than ectopic expression of intestinal transcription factors, Cdx1 and Cdx2, the molecular mechanisms underlying gastric and intestinal phenotypes of human stomach adenocarcinomas have yet to be clarified in detail. We have reported that Sox2, an HMG-box gastric transcription factor, is expressed in normal gastric mucosa and down-regulated in intestinal metaplasia.
Methods and results: We analysed mRNA levels of Sox2 and other differentiation markers in 50 surgically resected stomach adenocarcinomas, immunohistochemically classified into gastric (G), gastric-and-intestinal (GI)-mixed, solely intestinal (I), and null (N) types. Sox2 was found to be transcribed in G and GI-mixed type adenocarcinomas in accordance with MUC5AC and MUC6 expression, while Cdx1 and Cdx2 were up-regulated in GI-mixed and I types along with the expression of MUC2 and villin. In the N type, both gastric and intestinal transcription factors were suppressed. Immunohistochemistry confirmed expression of Sox2 in MUC5AC+ lesions and Cdx2 localization together with MUC2. A stomach adenocarcinoma cell line, KATOIII, demonstrated both MUC5AC and Sox2, although MUC5AC mRNA was not detected in the Sox2+ AGS cell line.
Conclusions: Sox2 may play an important role in maintaining a gastric phenotype in stomach cancers as well as in normal tissue, in cooperation with other cofactor(s).