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Role of SALL4 in the progression and metastasis of colorectal cancer

Mohammad Mahdi Forghanifard1*, Meysam Moghbeli2, Reza Raeisossadati2, Alireza Tavassoli3, Afsaneh Javdani Mallak4, Samaneh Boroumand-Noughabi56 and Mohammad Reza Abbaszadegan27

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Damghan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Cheshmeh-Ali Boulevard, Sa’dei Square, P.O.Box: 3671639998, Damghan, Iran

2 Division of Human Genetics, Immunology Research Center, Avicenna Research Institute, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

3 Endoscopic and Minimally Invasive Research Center, Qaem Hospital, Mashhad, Iran

4 Young Researchers Club and Elites, Mashhad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Mashhad, Iran

5 Department of Pathology, Imam Reza Hospital, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

6 Department of Pathology, Ghaem Hospital, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

7 Medical Genetics Research Center, Medical School, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran

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Journal of Biomedical Science 2013, 20:6  doi:10.1186/1423-0127-20-6

Published: 30 January 2013



Human cancer cells resemble stem cells in expression signatures leading them to share some features, most notably, self-renewal. A complex network of transcription factors and signaling molecules are required for continuance of this trait. SALL4 is a zinc finger transcriptional activator crucial for maintenance of self-renewal in stem cells; however, its expression level has not yet been elucidated in colorectal tumor cells. To determine this level and probable clinicopathological consequences, its expression was analyzed.


SALL4 expression in fresh tumoral and distant tumor-free tissues from 46 colorectal samples was compared by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).


Greater than a two-fold increase in SALL4 expression was detected in 87% of tumors vs. normal related tissues. SALL4 expression was significantly correlated with tumor cell metastasis to lymph nodes, especially in moderately-differentiated tumor samples (P < 0.05). Furthermore, higher levels of SALL4 mRNA expression were significantly associated with younger than older patients with tumor cells in stages I and II (P < 0.05).


These results indicate a relationship between SALL4 expression and tumor cell metastasis to lymph nodes and consequent advancement of tumors to advanced stages III and IV. Along with the promising evidence of its role in self-renewal in various cancers, SALL4 may have a role in progression, development and maintenance of colorectal cancers.

Colorectal cancer; SALL4; Expressional analysis; Real-time PCR; Self-renewal