Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) is highly upregulated in inflammation and reduces the expression of the intestinal transcription factor, Caudal-related homeobox transcription factor 2 (CDX2). Wnt/β-catenin signaling is critical for intestinal cell proliferation, but a decreased CDX2 expression has influence on the Wnt signaling-related genes and progression of colorectal cancer. Although several inflammatory signaling pathways, including TNF-α, have been reported to promote Wnt/β-catenin activity and development of cancer, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. The aim was to investigate the signaling pathways involved in the TNF-α-mediated downregulation of CDX2, and its influence on Wnt/β-catenin signaling components in colon cancer cells. The expression of TNF-α and CDX2 at the invasive front were evaluated by immunohistochemical staining and showed reduced CDX2-positive cells in tumor buddings in areas with TNF-α expression in the surrounding inflammatory cells. In vitro studies revealed that TNF-α treatment showed a dose-dependent decrease of CDX2 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein expression in Caco-2 cells. Inhibition of nuclear factor-kappaB or p38 pathways showed that these are involved in the TNF-α-dependent downregulation of CDX2. Furthermore, TNF-α-mediated downregulation of CDX2 was found to significantly decrease the mRNA levels of adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), axis inhibition protein 2 (AXIN2) and glycogen synthase kinase-3 beta (GSK3β), whereas the mRNA levels of Wnt targets were significantly elevated in TNF-α-treated Caco-2 cells. These findings were associated with reduced binding of CDX2 to promoter or enhancer regions of APC, AXIN2 and GSK3β. In conclusion, it was found that TNF-α induces the expression of Wnt signaling components through a downregulation of the CDX2 expression that might have a tumor-promoting effect on colon cancer cells.
Carcinogenesis, 2014, Vol 35, Issue 5, p. 1185-1192