Objective: To determine the involvement of homeobox D9 (HOXD9) in the survival, proliferation, and metastasis of cervical cancer cells through regulating the expression of human papillomavirus (HPV) 16 E6/E7 genes using the P97 promoter. Methods: One hundred cases of cervical cancer (CC), CC cell lines SKG-I, SKG-II, SKG-IIIa, SKG-IIIb, HeLa, and SiHa, and a human tumor xenograft mouse model were used to examine the roles of HOXD9 in CC. Knockdown experiments employed RNA interference of HOXD9. qPCR, functional assays, western blotting, DNA microarray, and luciferase and ChIP assays were applied for assessments. Results: All CC cell lines expressed HOXD9 mRNA and protein. In uterine CC, HOXD9 gene expression was significantly higher than in normal cervical tissues. A positive correlation of lymphovascular space invasion and lymph node metastasis with high levels of HOXD9 expression was found in patient samples. HOXD9-knockdown cells in the mouse xenograft model only formed small or no tumors. Knockdown of HOXD9 markedly reduced CC cell proliferation, migration and invasion, induced apoptosis, increased P53 protein expression, and suppressed HPV E6/E7 expression by directly binding to the P97 promoter of HPV16 E6/E7 genes. A positive correlation between HOXD9 and HPV16 E6 expression was found in CC patients. Conclusions: HOXD9 promotes HPV16 E6 and E7 expression by direct binding to the P97 promoter, which enhances proliferation, migration, and metastasis of CCr cells. Our results suggest that HOXD9 could be a prognostic biomarker and potential therapeutic target in CC.
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