A master regulator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and metastasis has been discovered by scientists. The transcription factor Sox4 is upregulated in its activity and triggers the expression of a number of genes that play an important role during EMT and metastasis.
In particular, Sox4 promotes the expression of the enzyme Ezh2, a methyltransferase, which generally influences methylation of specific proteins (histones), the packaging of the genetic material, and thus its readability and gene expression. Due to this change in genetic information, the behavior and function of cells are reprogrammed - a process that is currently observed during metastasis. Such a change in gene expression is also found in patients with malignant cancer and metastasis and correlates with a poor prognosis.
These findings point to the possibility that the inhibition of the transcription factor Sox4 and especially the methyltransferase Ezh2 could hinder metastasis in cancer patients. Appropriate medications are currently being developed but they need to undergo clinical trials before being used in patients. The research was implemented within the framework of the SystemsX.ch-RTD Project "Cell Plasticity."