Dlx genes: Roles in development and cancer

Yinfei Tan, Joseph R. Testa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Homeobox genes control body patterning and cell-fate decisions during development. The homeobox genes consist of many families, only some of which have been investigated regarding a possible role in tumorigenesis. Dysregulation of HOX family genes have been widely implicated in cancer etiology. DLX homeobox genes, which belong to the NK-like family, exert dual roles in development and cancer. The DLX genes are the key transcription factors involved in regulating the development of craniofacial structures in vertebrates. The three DLX bigenes have overlapping expression in the branchial arches. Disruption of DLX function has destructive consequences in organogenesis and is associated with certain congenital disorders in humans. The role of DLX genes in oncogenesis is only beginning to emerge. DLX2 diminishes cellular senescence by regulating p53 function, whereas DLX4 has been associated with metastasis in breast cancer. In human ovarian cancer cells, DLX5 is essential for regulating AKT signaling, thereby promoting cell proliferation and survival. We previously implicated Dlx5 as an oncogene in murine T-cell lymphoma driven by a constitutively active form of Akt2. In this mouse model, overexpression of Dlx5 was caused by a chromosomal rearrangement that juxtaposed the Tcr-beta promoter region near the Dlx5 locus. Moreover, transgenic mice overexpressing Dlx5, specifically in immature T-cells, develop spontaneous thymic lymphomas. Oncogenesis in this mouse model involves binding of Dlx5 to the Notch1 and Notch3 gene loci to activate their transcription. Dlx5 also cooperates with Akt signaling to accelerate lymphomagenesis by activating Wnt signaling. We also discuss the fact that human DLX5 is aberrantly expressed in several human malignancies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3005
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2 2021


  • Aka
  • Cancer
  • Development
  • DLX
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Homeobox genes
  • HOX
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma


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