Homeobox D10 induces phenotypic reversion of breast tumor cells in a three-dimensional culture model.
Homeobox (Hox) genes are master regulatory genes that direct organogenesis and maintain differentiated tissue function. We previously reported that HoxD10 helps to maintain a quiescent, differentiated phenotype in endothelial cells by suppressing expression of genes involved in remodeling the extracellular matrix and cell migration. Here we investigated whether HoxD10 could also promote or maintain a differentiated phenotype in epithelial cells. We observed that HoxD10 expression is progressively reduced in epithelial cells as malignancy increases in both breast and endometrial tumors. Retroviral gene transfer to restore expression of HoxD10 in the malignant breast tumor cells MDA-MB-231 significantly impaired migration, and when these cells were cultured in a three-dimensional laminin-rich basement membrane (3DlrBM) model, they formed polarized, acinar structures. This phenotypic reversion was accompanied by decreased alpha3 integrin expression and reduced proliferation. Importantly, expression of HoxD10 in the MDA-MB-231 cells inhibited their ability to form tumors in mouse xenografts. Taken together, our results suggest that HoxD10 has tumor-suppressive functions for mammary epithelial cells.