Regulation of the expression and activity of the antiangiogenic homeobox gene GAX/MEOX2 by ZEB2 and MicroRNA-221

Yun Chen, Malathi Banda, Cecilia L. Speyer, Jennifer S. Smith, Arnold B. Rabson, David H. Gorski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Tumors secrete proangiogenic factors to induce the ingrowth of blood vessels from the stroma. These peptides bind to cell surface receptors on vascular endothelial cells (ECs), triggering signaling cascades that activate and repress batteries of downstream genes responsible for the angiogenic phenotype. To determine if microRNAs (miRNAs) affect regulation of the EC phenotype by GAX, a homeobox gene and negative transcriptional regulator of the angiogenic phenotype, we tested the effect of miR-221 on GAX expression. miR-221 strongly upregulated GAX, suggesting that miR-221 downregulates a repressor of GAX. We next expressed miR-221 in ECs and identified ZEB2, a modulator of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, as being strongly downregulated by miR-221. Using miR-221 expression constructs and an inhibitor, we determined that ZEB2 is upregulated by serum and downregulates GAX, while the expression of miR-221 upregulates GAX and downregulates ZEB2. A mutant miR-221 fails to downregulate ZEB2 or upregulate GAX. Finally, using chromatin immunoprecipitation, we identified two ZEB2 binding sites that modulate the ability of ZEB2 to downregulate GAX promoter activity. We conclude that miR-221 upregulates GAX primarily through its ability to downregulate the expression of ZEB2. These observations suggest a strategy for inhibiting angiogenesis by either recapitulating miR-221 expression or inhibiting ZEB2 activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3902-3913
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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