DNA methylation is important in cancer development and is a promising biomarker for cancer detection. An epigenomic approach used in our previous work showed that LMX-1A is methylation-silenced in cervical cancer. LMX-1A, a LIM-homeobox gene, is known to participate in developmental events; however, there are at present no data on the role of LMX-1A in cancers. In this study, we characterized the function of this transcription factor by examining cell lines, animal models and human cervical neoplastic tissues, and found that over-expression of LMX-1A does not affect cell proliferation or the cell cycle of cervical cancer cell lines but significantly inhibits colony formation and invasion in vitro. Analysis of changes in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers, such as CDH1, CDH2, VIMENTIN, SNAIL, SLUG and TWIST, revealed involvement of the EMT in LMX-1A-mediated cancer invasion; this result was validated in a stable transfectant overexpressing LMX-1A with RNA interference. Xenograft studies using immunocompromised mice confirmed the suppressor effects of LMX-1A on tumour formation and distant metastasis in cervical cancer cell lines. LMX-1A immunohistochemical staining of tissue arrays containing the full spectrum of cervical neoplasms, including normal cervix, low-grade cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN), high-grade CIN, locally invasive and distant metastatic cancers, demonstrated the critical role of LMX-1A in invasion and metastasis. Furthermore, we found by analysing TGFβ-BMP signalling that BMP4 and BMP6 are down-regulated by LMX-1A. The results of this study suggest that LMX-1A suppresses cancer invasion and metastasis in cervical cancer through an incomplete EMT.
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