Thee role of Rhox homeobox factors in tumorigenesis
Homeobox genes encode transcription factors that have well-established roles in embryonic development. We recently discovered the Rhox genes, a new family of homeobox genes, which are selectively expressed in the developing embryo, postnatal and adult gonads, and accessory tissues associated with mammalian reproduction. The largest and best-characterized Rhox cluster is found in mouse. However, all mammals examined to date possess a set of Rhox genes that, while they may vary in number by species, appear relevant to reproduction and are located in the syntenic region of the X chromosome. Rhox5, the founding member of the family, was initially cloned from a screen to identify tumorigenic antigens from T-cell lymphomas, and was later found to be widely expressed in tumors from tissues of diverse origins that do not normally express the Rhox genes. This aberrant upregulation appears to be a general feature of many Rhox genes, but the implications of this misexpression remain largely uninvestigated. In this review, we will discuss the latest findings on the normal and abnormal roles of the Rhox genes and their potential contributions to the formation and progression of tumors.