Nature 452, 187-193 (13 March 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06781; Received 11 September 2007; Accepted 22 January 2008

SATB1 reprogrammes gene expression to promote breast tumour growth and metastasis

Hye-Jung Han1, Jose Russo2, Yoshinori Kohwi1,3 & Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu1,3

  1. Life Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
  2. Breast Cancer Research Laboratory, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19111, USA
  3. These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence to: Yoshinori Kohwi1,3Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu1,3 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to T.K.-S. (Email: or Y.K. (Email:


Mechanisms underlying global changes in gene expression during tumour progression are poorly understood. SATB1 is a genome organizer that tethers multiple genomic loci and recruits chromatin-remodelling enzymes to regulate chromatin structure and gene expression. Here we show that SATB1 is expressed by aggressive breast cancer cells and its expression level has high prognostic significance (P < 0.0001), independent of lymph-node status. RNA-interference-mediated knockdown of SATB1 in highly aggressive (MDA-MB-231) cancer cells altered the expression of >1,000 genes, reversing tumorigenesis by restoring breast-like acinar polarity and inhibiting tumour growth and metastasis in vivo. Conversely, ectopic SATB1 expression in non-aggressive (SKBR3) cells led to gene expression patterns consistent with aggressive-tumour phenotypes, acquiring metastatic activity in vivo. SATB1 delineates specific epigenetic modifications at target gene loci, directly upregulating metastasis-associated genes while downregulating tumour-suppressor genes. SATB1 reprogrammes chromatin organization and the transcription profiles of breast tumours to promote growth and metastasis; this is a new mechanism of tumour progression.


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