Vervoort SJ, Lourenço AR, Tufegdzic Vidakovic A, Mocholi E, Sandoval JL, Rueda OM, Frederiks C, Pals C, Peeters JGC, Caldas C, Bruna A, Coffer PJ
Expression of the transcription factor SOX4 is often elevated in human cancers, where it generally correlates with tumor-progression and poor-disease outcome. Reduction of SOX4 expression results in both diminished tumor-incidence and metastasis. In breast cancer, TGF-β-mediated induction of SOX4 has been shown to contribute to epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which controls pro-metastatic events. Here, we identify SMAD3 as a novel, functionally relevant SOX4 interaction partner. Genome-wide analysis showed that SOX4 and SMAD3 co-occupy a large number of genomic loci in a cell-type specific manner. Moreover, SOX4 expression was required for TGF-β-mediated induction of a subset of SMAD3/SOX4-co-bound genes regulating migration and extracellular matrix-associated processes, and correlating with poor-prognosis. These findings identify SOX4 as an important SMAD3 co-factor controlling transcription of pro-metastatic genes and context-dependent shaping of the cellular response to TGF-β. Targeted disruption of the interaction between these factors may have the potential to disrupt pro-oncogenic TGF-β signaling, thereby impairing tumorigenesis.