BACKGROUND: A transcription regulatory complex (TRC) that includes Ets1, Ets2, PEA3 and beta-catenin/T-cell factors regulates osteopontin (OPN) that is implicated in colorectal cancer (CRC) dissemination. The consistency of OPN transcriptional control between primary CRC and metastases is unclear. This study investigates expression and prognostic significance of the OPN-TRC in primary human CRC and associated colorectal liver metastases (CRLM).
METHODS: Osteopontin-TRC factors were assayed by digital microscopy in 38 primary CRCs and matched CRLM specimens and assessed against clinical prognosis. RESULTS: In primary CRC, OPN expression intensity correlated with that of its co-activators, PEA3 (r = 0.600; P<0.01), Ets1 (r = 0.552; P<0.01), Ets2 (r =.521; P<0.01) and had prognostic significance. Osteopontin intensity in primary CRC inversely correlated with the interval between diagnosis and resection of CRLM. Overall OPN intensity was lower in CRLM than primary CRC and correlations with co-activators were weaker, for example, Ets1 (P=0.047), PEA3 (P 0.022) or nonsignificant (Ets2). The ratio of OPN expression in CRLM vs primary CRC had prognostic significance.
CONCLUSION: This study supports transcriptional control of OPN by known coregulators in both primary and secondary CRC. Weaker associations in CRLM suggest involvement of other unknown factors possibly from the liver microenvironment or resulting from additional genetic or epigenetic changes that drive tumour metastatic capability in OPN transcriptional control. British Journal of Cancer (2011) 104, 1007-1012. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.33 www.bjcancer.com