Specificity Proteins (Sp) and Cancer

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6 Scopus citations


The specificity protein (Sp) transcription factors (TFs) Sp1, Sp2, Sp3 and Sp4 exhibit structural and functional similarities in cancer cells and extensive studies of Sp1 show that it is a negative prognostic factor for patients with multiple tumor types. In this review, the role of Sp1, Sp3 and Sp4 in the development of cancer and their regulation of pro-oncogenic factors and pathways is reviewed. In addition, interactions with non-coding RNAs and the development of agents that target Sp transcription factors are also discussed. Studies on normal cell transformation into cancer cell lines show that this transformation process is accompanied by increased levels of Sp1 in most cell models, and in the transformation of muscle cells into rhabdomyosarcoma, both Sp1 and Sp3, but not Sp4, are increased. The pro-oncogenic functions of Sp1, Sp3 and Sp4 in cancer cell lines were studied in knockdown studies where silencing of each individual Sp TF decreased cancer growth, invasion and induced apoptosis. Silencing of an individual Sp TF was not compensated for by the other two and it was concluded that Sp1, Sp3 and Sp4 are examples of non-oncogene addicted genes. This conclusion was strengthened by the results of Sp TF interactions with non-coding microRNAs and long non-coding RNAs where Sp1 contributed to pro-oncogenic functions of Sp/non-coding RNAs. There are now many examples of anticancer agents and pharmaceuticals that induce downregulation/degradation of Sp1, Sp3 and Sp4, yet clinical applications of drugs specifically targeting Sp TFs are not being used. The application of agents targeting Sp TFs in combination therapies should be considered for their potential to enhance treatment efficacy and decrease toxic side effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5164
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 8 2023


  • Sp1
  • Sp3
  • Sp4
  • non-oncogene addiction
  • pro-oncogenic
  • prognostic
  • MicroRNAs/genetics
  • Humans
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Sp3 Transcription Factor/metabolism
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma/genetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents/pharmacology
  • Sp1 Transcription Factor/genetics
  • Sp Transcription Factors/metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Catalysis
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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