Role of SOX2 in the etiology of embryonal carcinoma, based on analysis of the NCCIT and NT2 cell lines

Ronak Eini, Hans Stoop, Ad J M Gillis, Katharina Biermann, Lambert C J Dorssers, Leendert H J Looijenga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The transcription factor SOX2, associated with amongst others OCT3/4, is essential for maintenance of pluripotency and self-renewal of embryonic stem cells. SOX2 is highly expressed in embryonal carcinoma (EC), the stem cell component of malignant nonseminomatous germ cell tumors, referred to as germ cell cancer (GCC). In fact, OCT3/4 together with SOX2 is an informative diagnostic tool for EC in a clinical setting. Several studies support the hypothesis that SOX2 is a relevant oncogenic factor in various cancers and recently, SOX2 has been suggested as a putative therapeutic target for early stage EC. We demonstrate the presence of genomic amplification of SOX2 in an EC cell line, NCCIT, using array comparative genome hybridization and fluorescence in situ hybridization. Down-regulation of SOX2 by targeted siRNA provokes NCCIT cells towards apoptosis, while inhibition of OCT3/4 expression induced differentiation, with retained SOX2 levels. Mice pluripotent xenografts from NCCIT (N-NCCIT and N2-NCCIT) show a consistent SOX2 expression, in spite of loss of the expression of OCT3/4, and differentiation, with retained presence of genomic amplification. No SOX2 amplification has been identified in primary pure and mixed EC in vivo patient samples so far. The data presented in this study are based on a single EC cell line with a SOX2 amplification, with NT2 as control EC cell line, showing no profound induction of apoptosis upon SOX2 downregulation. The findings are of relevance to identify mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of EC tumors, and support the model of SOX2-oncogene dependency of EC, which however, does not exclude induction of differentiation. This finding is likely related to the presence of wild type p53 in GCC, resulting in expression of downstream target genes, amongst others miR-34a, miR-145 and SOX2, associated to the unique sensitivity of GCC to DNA damaging agents.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere83585
Pages (from-to)e83585
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Apoptosis/genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Carcinoma, Embryonal/genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Amplification
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Gene Silencing
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3/genetics
  • RNA Interference
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors/genetics


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