SOX9 Transcriptionally Regulates mTOR-Induced Proliferation of Basal Cell Carcinomas

Academic Article


  • © 2018 The Authors Currently available smoothened targeted therapies in patients with basal cell nevus syndrome are associated with substantial tumor recurrence and clinical resistance. Strategies bypassing smoothened and/or identifying additional downstream components of the Hedgehog pathway could provide novel antitumor targets with a better therapeutic index. Sry-related high mobility group box 9 (SOX9) is a Hedgehog/glioma-associated oncogene homolog-regulated transcription factor known to be overexpressed in basal cell carcinomas (BCCs). A sequence motif search for SOX9-responsive elements identified three motifs in the promoter region of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). In murine BCC cells, SOX9 occupies the mTOR promoter and induces its transcriptional activity. Short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated knockdown of SOX9, as well as smoothened inhibition by itraconazole and vismodegib, reduces mTOR expression and the phosphorylation of known downstream mTOR targets. These effects culminate in diminishing the proliferative capacity of BCC cells, demonstrating a direct mechanistic link between the Hedgehog and mTOR pathways capable of driving BCC growth. Furthermore, rapamycin, a pharmacologic mTOR inhibitor, suppressed the growth of UV-induced BCCs in Ptch1 +/– /SKH-1 mice, a model that closely mimics the accelerated BCC growth pattern of patients with basal cell nevus syndrome. Our data demonstrate that Hedgehog signaling converges on mTOR via SOX9, and highlight the SOX9-mTOR axis as a viable additional target downstream of smoothened that could enhance tumor elimination in patients with BCC.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kim AL; Back JH; Chaudhary SC; Zhu Y; Athar M; Bickers DR
  • Start Page

  • 1716
  • End Page

  • 1725
  • Volume

  • 138
  • Issue

  • 8