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Sry-box (Sox) transcription factors in gastrointestinal physiology and disease.

The genetic mechanisms underlying tissue maintenance of the gastrointestinal tract are critical for the proper function of the digestive system under normal physiological stress. The identification of transcription factors and related signal transduction pathways that regulate stem cell maintenance and lineage allocation is attractive from a clinical standpoint in that it may provide targets for novel cell- or drug-based therapies. Sox [sex-determining region Y (Sry) box-containing] factors are a family of transcription factors that are emerging as potent regulators of stem cell maintenance and cell fate decisions in multiple organ systems and might provide valuable insight toward the understanding of these processes in endodermally derived tissues of the gastrointestinal tract. In this review, we focus on the known genetic functions of Sox factors and their roles in epithelial tissues of the esophagus, stomach, intestine, colon, pancreas, and liver. Additionally, we discuss pathological conditions in the gastrointestinal tract that are associated with a dysregulation of Sox factors. Further study of Sox factors and their role in gastrointestinal physiology and pathophysiology may lead to advances that facilitate control of tissue maintenance and development of advanced clinical therapies.

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