SOX2 is a transcription factor essential for early mammalian development and for the maintenance of stem cells. Recently, SOX2 was identified as a lineage specific oncogene, recurrently amplified and activated in lung and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In this study, we have developed a zinc finger-based artificial transcription factor (ATF) to selectively suppress SOX2 expression in cancer cells and termed the system ATF/SOX2. We engineered the ATF using six zinc finger arrays designed to target a 19 bp site in the SOX2 distal promoter and a KOX transcriptional repressor domain. A recombinant adenoviral vector Ad-ATF/SOX2 that expresses ATF/SOX2 suppressed SOX2 at the mRNA and protein levels in lung and esophageal SCC cells expressing SOX2. In these kinds of cells, Ad-ATF/SOX2 decreased cell proliferation and colony formation more effectively than the recombinant adenoviral vector Ad-shSOX2, which expresses SOX2 short hairpin RNA (shSOX2). Ad-ATF/SOX2 induced the cell cycle inhibitor CDKN1A more strongly than Ad-shSOX2. Importantly, the ATF did not suppress the cell viability of normal human cells. Moreover, Ad-ATF/SOX2 effectively inhibited tumor growth in a lung SCC xenograft mouse model. These results indicate that ATF/SOX2 would lead to the development of an effective molecular-targeted therapy for lung and esophageal SCC.
- Artificial transcription factor (ATF)
- Molecular targeted therapy
- Squamous cell carcinoma
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