The role of KCNQ1 in mouse and human gastrointestinal cancers

B. L.N. Than, J. A.C.M. Goos, Aaron L Sarver, Gerard O'Sullivan, A. Rod, Tim Starr, R. J.A. Fijneman, G. A. Meijer, L. Zhao, Ying Zhang, David A Largaespada, Patricia M Scott, Robert T Cormier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Kcnq1, which encodes for the pore-forming -subunit of a voltage-gated potassium channel, was identified as a gastrointestinal (GI) tract cancer susceptibility gene in multiple Sleeping Beauty DNA transposon-based forward genetic screens in mice. To confirm that Kcnq1 has a functional role in GI tract cancer, we created Apc Min mice that carried a targeted deletion mutation in Kcnq1. Results demonstrated that Kcnq1 is a tumor suppressor gene as Kcnq1 mutant mice developed significantly more intestinal tumors, especially in the proximal small intestine and colon, and some of these tumors progressed to become aggressive adenocarcinomas. Gross tissue abnormalities were also observed in the rectum, pancreas and stomach. Colon organoid formation was significantly increased in organoids created from Kcnq1 mutant mice compared with wild-type littermate controls, suggesting a role for Kcnq1 in the regulation of the intestinal crypt stem cell compartment. To identify gene expression changes due to loss of Kcnq1, we carried out microarray studies in the colon and proximal small intestine. We identified altered genes involved in innate immune responses, goblet and Paneth cell function, ion channels, intestinal stem cells, epidermal growth factor receptor and other growth regulatory signaling pathways. We also found genes implicated in inflammation and in cellular detoxification. Pathway analysis using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis and Gene Set Enrichment Analysis confirmed the importance of these gene clusters and further identified significant overlap with genes regulated by MUC2 and CFTR, two important regulators of intestinal homeostasis. To investigate the role of KCNQ1 in human colorectal cancer (CRC), we measured protein levels of KCNQ1 by immunohistochemistry in tissue microarrays containing samples from CRC patients with liver metastases who had undergone hepatic resection. Results showed that low expression of KCNQ1 expression was significantly associated with poor overall survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3861-3868
Number of pages8
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 17 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr Karl Pfeifer at the NIH for generously providing Kcnq1 mutant mice and reviewing the manuscript. Research was supported by a grant to RC and DL (NCI R01 CA134759-01A1) and to JG and RF (Center for Translational Molecular Medicine, DeCoDe project grant 03O-101) and to TKS (NCI R00 4R00CA151672-02).


  • KCNQ1
  • colorectal cancer
  • tumor suppressor


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