Comprehensive analysis of the homeobox family genes in breast cancer demonstrates their similar roles in cancer and development

Ayako Nakashoji, Tetsu Hayashida, Shigeo Yamaguchi, Yuko Kawai, Masayuki Kikuchi, Takamichi Yokoe, Aiko Nagayama, Tomoko Seki, Maiko Takahashi, Yuko Kitagawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The homeobox (HOX) family consists of 39 genes whose expressions are tightly controlled and coordinated within the family, during development. We performed a comprehensive analysis of this gene family in cancer settings. Methods: Gene correlation analysis was performed using breast cancer data available in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and data from the patients admitted to our hospital. We also analyzed the data of normal breast tissue (GSE20437). We next collected gene expression and prognosis data of breast cancer patients (GSE11121, GSE7390, GSE3494, and GSE2990) and performed unsupervised hierarchal clustering by the HOX gene expression pattern and compared prognosis. We additionally performed this analysis to leukemia (available in TCGA) and sarcoma (GSE20196) data. Results: Gene correlation analysis showed that the proximal HOX genes exhibit strong interactions and are expressed together in breast cancer, similar to the expression observed during development. However, in normal breast tissue, less interactions were observed. Breast cancer microarray meta-data classified by the HOX gene expression pattern predicted the prognosis of luminal B breast cancer patients (p = 0.016). Leukemia (p = 0.00016) and sarcoma (p = 0.018) presented similar results. The Wnt signaling pathway, one of the major upstream signals of HOX genes in development, was activated in the poor prognostic group. Interestingly, poor prognostic cancer presented stronger correlation in the gene family compared to favorable prognostic cancer. Conclusion: Comprehensive analysis of the HOX family demonstrated their similar roles in cancer and development, and indicated that the strong interaction of HOX genes might be specific to malignancies, especially in the case of poor prognostic cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-361
Number of pages9
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr


  • Breast cancer
  • Correlation
  • Development
  • Embryogenesis
  • Homeobox
  • Wnt signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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