genes are a group of homeodomain-containing transcription factors that play important regulatory roles in early development, including the establishment of cell and tissue identity. HOX
expression is generally reduced in adult cells but is frequently re-established as an early event in tumour formation and supports an oncogenic phenotype. HOX transcription factors are also involved in cell cycle regulation and DNA repair, along with normal adult physiological process including stem cell renewal. There have been extensive studies on the mechanism by which HOX proteins regulate transcription, with particular emphasis on their interaction with cofactors such as Pre-B-cell Leukaemia Homeobox (PBX) and Myeloid Ecotropic Viral Integration Site 1 (MEIS). However, significantly less is known of how the activity of HOX proteins is regulated. There is growing evidence that phosphorylation may play an important role in this context, and in this review, we draw together a number of important studies published over the last 20 years, and discuss the relevance of phosphorylation in the regulation and function of HOX proteins in development, evolution, cell cycle regulation, and cancer.
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