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1.  miR-222 is upregulated in epithelial ovarian cancer and promotes cell proliferation by downregulating P27kip1 
Oncology Letters  2013;6(2):507-512.
Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is the leading cause of female reproductive system cancer mortality in females. The majority of cases of ovarian carcinomas are not identified until a late stage. Identifying the molecular changes that occur during the development and progression of ovarian cancer is an urgent requirement. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been identified as gene expression regulators that induce mRNA degradation or translation blockade through pairing to the 3′ untranslated region (3-‘UTR) of the target mRNAs. In the present study, miR-222 was observed to be frequently upregulated in ovarian cancer. miR-222 upregulation induced an enhancement of ovarian cancer cell proliferation potential, possibly by downregulating its target, P27Kip1. A bioinformatic analysis showed that the 3′-UTR of the P27Kip1 mRNA contained a highly-conserved putative miR-222 binding site. Luciferase reporter assays demonstrated that P27Kip1 was a direct target of miR-222. Consistently, there was an inverse correlation between the P27Kip1 and miR-222 expression levels in the ovarian cancer cell lines and tissues. Overall, the present results suggest that miR-222 upregulation in human ovarian cancer may promote ovarian cancer cell proliferation during ovarian carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3789083  PMID: 24137356
epithelial ovarian cancer; miR-222; P27Kip1; carcinogenesis
2.  In Vitro and in Vivo Anti-tumor Activity of miR-221/222 Inhibitors in Multiple Myeloma 
Oncotarget  2013;4(2):242-255.
A rising body of evidence suggests that silencing microRNAs (miRNAs) with oncogenic potential may represent a successful therapeutic strategy for human cancer. We investigated the therapeutic activity of miR-221/222 inhibitors against human multiple myeloma (MM) cells. Enforced expression of miR-221/222 inhibitors triggered in vitro anti-proliferative effects and up-regulation of canonic miR-221/222 targets, including p27Kip1, PUMA, PTEN and p57Kip2, in MM cells highly expressing miR-221/222. Conversely, transfection of miR-221/222 mimics increased S-phase and down-regulated p27Kip1 protein expression in MM with low basal miR-221/222 levels. The effects of miR-221/222 inhibitors was also evaluated in MM xenografts in SCID/NOD mice. Significant anti-tumor activity was achieved in xenografted mice by the treatment with miR-221/222 inhibitors, together with up-regulation of canonic protein targets in tumors retrieved from animals. These findings provide proof of principle that silencing the miR-221/222 cluster exerts significant therapeutic activity in MM cells with high miR-221/222 level of expression, which mostly occurs in TC2 and TC4 MM groups. These findings suggest that MM genotyping may predict the therapeutic response. All together our results support a framework for clinical development of miR-221/222 inhibitors-based therapeutic strategy in this still incurable disease.
PMCID: PMC3712570  PMID: 23479461
miR-221; miR-222; microRNA; miRNA; multiple myeloma; plasma cell leukemia
3.  miR221/222 in Cancer: Their Role in Tumor Progression and Response to Therapy 
Current molecular medicine  2012;12(1):27-33.
MiRNAs are small non-coding RNAs of ~24 nt that can block mRNA translation and/or negatively regulate its stability. There is a large body of evidence that dysregulation of miRNAs is a hallmark of cancer. miRNAs are often aberrantly expressed and their function is linked to the regulation of oncogenes and/or tumor suppressor genes involved in cell signaling pathway. MiR-221 and miR-222 are two highly homologous microRNAs, whose upregulation has been recently described in several types of human tumors. MiR-221/222 have been considered to act as oncogenes or tumor suppressors, depending on tumor system. Silencing oncomiRs or gene therapy approaches, based on re-expression of miRNAs that are down-regulated in cancer cells, could represent a novel anti-tumor approach for integrated cancer therapy. Here we will review the role of miR-221/222 in cancer progression and their use as prognostic and therapeutic tools in cancer.
PMCID: PMC3673714  PMID: 22082479
microRNA; cancer; cancer therpay
4.  miR-221 affects multiple cancer pathways by modulating the level of hundreds messenger RNAs 
microRNA miR-221 is frequently over-expressed in a variety of human neoplasms. Aim of this study was to identify new miR-221 gene targets to improve our understanding on the molecular tumor-promoting mechanisms affected by miR-221. Gene expression profiling of miR-221-transfected-SNU-398 cells was analyzed by the Sylamer algorithm to verify the enrichment of miR-221 targets among down-modulated genes. This analysis revealed that enforced expression of miR-221 in SNU-398 cells caused the down-regulation of 602 mRNAs carrying sequences homologous to miR-221 seed sequence within their 3′UTRs. Pathways analysis performed on these genes revealed their prominent involvement in cell proliferation and apoptosis. Activation of E2F, MYC, NFkB, and β-catenin pathways was experimentally proven. Some of the new miR-221 target genes, including RB1, WEE1 (cell cycle inhibitors), APAF1 (pro-apoptotic), ANXA1, CTCF (transcriptional repressor), were individually validated as miR-221 targets in SNU-398, HepG2, and HEK293 cell lines. By identifying a large set of miR-221 gene targets, this study improves our knowledge about miR-221 molecular mechanisms involved in tumorigenesis. The modulation of mRNA level of 602 genes confirms the ability of miR-221 to promote cancer by affecting multiple oncogenic pathways.
PMCID: PMC3635019  PMID: 23630541
microRNA; miR-221; microarray; Sylamer; gene targets
5.  Down-Regulation of eIF4GII by miR-520c-3p Represses Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma Development 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(1):e1004105.
Deregulation of the translational machinery is emerging as a critical contributor to cancer development. The contribution of microRNAs in translational gene control has been established however; the role of microRNAs in disrupting the cap-dependent translation regulation complex has not been previously described. Here, we established that elevated miR-520c-3p represses global translation, cell proliferation and initiates premature senescence in HeLa and DLBCL cells. Moreover, we demonstrate that miR-520c-3p directly targets translation initiation factor, eIF4GII mRNA and negatively regulates eIF4GII protein synthesis. miR-520c-3p overexpression diminishes cells colony formation and reduces tumor growth in a human xenograft mouse model. Consequently, downregulation of eIF4GII by siRNA decreases translation, cell proliferation and ability to form colonies, as well as induces cellular senescence. In vitro and in vivo findings were further validated in patient samples; DLBCL primary cells demonstrated low miR-520c-3p levels with reciprocally up-regulated eIF4GII protein expression. Our results provide evidence that the tumor suppressor effect of miR-520c-3p is mediated through repression of translation while inducing senescence and that eIF4GII is a key effector of this anti-tumor activity.
Author Summary
Control of gene expression on the translational level is critical for proper function of major cellular processes and deregulation of translation can promote cellular transformation. Emerging actors in this post-transcriptional gene regulation are small non-coding RNAs referred to as microRNAs (miRNAs). We established that miR-520c-3p represses tumor growth through the repression of eIF4GII, a major structural component of the translation initiation complex. Since translation of most cellular mRNAs is primarily regulated at the level of initiation, this node is becoming a potential target for therapeutic intervention. Identified in this study, tumor suppressor function of miR-520c-3p is mediated through the inhibition of translational factor eIF4GII, resulting in the repression of global translational machinery and induction of senescence in tumor cells. While aging and senescence has been shown to be associated with reduced translation the linkage between translational deregulation and senescence in malignant cells has not been previously described. Lending further clinical significance to our findings, we were able to demonstrate that primary DLBCL samples had elevated levels of eIF4GII while having reciprocally low miR-520c-3p expression.
PMCID: PMC3907297  PMID: 24497838
6.  Control of Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27 Expression by Cap-Independent Translation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(15):4960-4967.
p27 is a key regulator of cell proliferation through inhibition of G1 cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) activity. Translation of the p27 mRNA is an important control mechanism for determining cellular levels of the inhibitor. Nearly all eukaryotic mRNAs are translated through a mechanism involving recognition of the 5′ cap by eukaryotic initiation factor 4E (eIF4E). In quiescent cells eIF4E activity is repressed, leading to a global decline in translation rates. In contrast, p27 translation is highest during quiescence, suggesting that it escapes the general repression of translational initiation. We show that the 5′ untranslated region (5′-UTR) of the p27 mRNA mediates cap-independent translation. This activity is unaffected by conditions in which eIF4E is inhibited. In D6P2T cells, elevated cyclic AMP levels cause a rapid withdrawal from the cell cycle that is correlated with a striking increase in p27. Under these same conditions, cap-independent translation from the p27 5′-UTR is enhanced. These results indicate that regulation of internal initiation of translation is an important determinant of p27 protein levels.
PMCID: PMC87223  PMID: 11438653
7.  microRNA-122 stimulates translation of hepatitis C virus RNA 
The EMBO Journal  2008;27(24):3300-3310.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a positive strand RNA virus that propagates primarily in the liver. We show here that the liver-specific microRNA-122 (miR-122), a member of a class of small cellular RNAs that mediate post-transcriptional gene regulation usually by repressing the translation of mRNAs through interaction with their 3′-untranslated regions (UTRs), stimulates the translation of HCV. Sequestration of miR-122 in liver cell lines strongly reduces HCV translation, whereas addition of miR-122 stimulates HCV translation in liver cell lines as well as in the non-liver HeLa cells and in rabbit reticulocyte lysate. The stimulation is conferred by direct interaction of miR-122 with two target sites in the 5′-UTR of the HCV genome. With a replication-defective NS5B polymerase mutant genome, we show that the translation stimulation is independent of viral RNA synthesis. miR-122 stimulates HCV translation by enhancing the association of ribosomes with the viral RNA at an early initiation stage. In conclusion, the liver-specific miR-122 may contribute to HCV liver tropism at the level of translation.
PMCID: PMC2586803  PMID: 19020517
5′-UTR; HCV; IRES; microRNA; translation
8.  From microRNA functions to microRNA therapeutics: Novel targets and novel drugs in breast cancer research and treatment  
International Journal of Oncology  2013;43(4): 985 - 994 .
MicroRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) are a family of small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression by the sequence-selective targeting of mRNAs, leading to translational repression or mRNA degradation, depending on the degree of complementarity with target mRNA sequences. miRNAs play a crucial role in cancer. In the case of breast tumors, several studies have demonstrated a correlation between: i) the expression profile of oncogenic miRNAs (oncomiRs) or tumor suppressor miRNAs and ii) the tumorigenic potential of triple-negative [estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and Her2/neu] primary breast cancers. Among the miRNAs involved in breast cancer, miR-221 plays a crucial role for the following reasons: i) miR-221 is significantly overexpressed in triple-negative primary breast cancers; ii) the oncosuppressor p27 Kip1 , a validated miR-221 target, is downregulated in aggressive cancer cell lines; and iii) the upregulation of a key transcription factor, Slug, appears to be crucial, since it binds to the miR-221/miR-222 promoter and is responsible for the high expression of the miR-221/miR-222 cluster in breast cancer cells. A Slug/miR-221 network has been suggested, linking miR-221 activity with the downregulation of a Slug repressor, leading to Slug/miR-221 upregulation and p27 Kip1 downregulation. Interference with this process can be achieved using antisense miRNA (antagomiR) molecules targeting miR-221, inducing the down-regulation of Slug and the upregulation of p27 Kip1 .
doi: 10.3892/ijo.2013.2059
PMCID: PMC3829774  PMID: 23939688
microRNAs ;  breast cancer ;  miR-221 ;  Slug ;  p27 Kip1 ;  peptide nucleic acid ;  microRNA replacement therapy ;  antagomiR
9.  Microrna-221 and Microrna-222 Modulate Differentiation and Maturation of Skeletal Muscle Cells 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7607.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs that have recently emerged as important regulators of gene expression. They negatively regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally by translational repression and target mRNA degradation. miRNAs have been shown to play crucial roles in muscle development and in regulation of muscle cell proliferation and differentiation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
By comparing miRNA expression profiling of proliferating myoblasts versus differentiated myotubes, a number of modulated miRNAs, not previously implicated in regulation of myogenic differentiation, were identified. Among these, miR-221 and miR-222 were strongly down-regulated upon differentiation of both primary and established myogenic cells. Conversely, miR-221 and miR-222 expression was restored in post-mitotic, terminally differentiated myotubes subjected to Src tyrosine kinase activation. By the use of specific inhibitors we provide evidence that expression of miR-221 and miR-222 is under the control of the Ras-MAPK pathway. Both in myoblasts and in myotubes, levels of the cell cycle inhibitor p27 inversely correlated with miR-221 and miR-222 expression, and indeed we show that p27 mRNA is a direct target of these miRNAs in myogenic cells. Ectopic expression of miR-221 and miR-222 in myoblasts undergoing differentiation induced a delay in withdrawal from the cell cycle and in myogenin expression, followed by inhibition of sarcomeric protein accumulation. When miR-221 and miR-222 were expressed in myotubes undergoing maturation, a profound alteration of myofibrillar organization was observed.
miR-221 and miR-222 have been found to be modulated during myogenesis and to play a role both in the progression from myoblasts to myocytes and in the achievement of the fully differentiated phenotype. Identification of miRNAs modulating muscle gene expression is crucial for the understanding of the circuits controlling skeletal muscle differentiation and maintenance.
PMCID: PMC2762614  PMID: 19859555
10.  MicroRNA Expression and Identification of Putative miRNA Targets in Ovarian Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2436.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a class of small non-coding RNAs that control gene expression by targeting mRNAs and triggering either translation repression or RNA degradation. Emerging evidence suggests the potential involvement of altered regulation of miRNA in the pathogenesis of cancers, and these genes are thought to function as both tumor suppressors and oncogenes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using microRNA microarrays, we identify several miRNAs aberrantly expressed in human ovarian cancer tissues and cell lines. miR-221 stands out as a highly elevated miRNA in ovarian cancer, while miR-21 and several members of the let-7 family are found downregulated. Public databases were used to reveal potential targets for the highly differentially expressed miRNAs. In order to experimentally identify transcripts whose stability may be affected by the differentially expressed miRNAs, we transfected precursor miRNAs into human cancer cell lines and used oligonucleotide microarrays to examine changes in the mRNA levels. Interestingly, there was little overlap between the predicted and the experimental targets or pathways, or between experimental targets/pathways obtained using different cell lines, highlighting the complexity of miRNA target selection.
Our results identify several differentially expressed miRNAs in ovarian cancer and identify potential target transcripts that may be regulated by these miRNAs. These miRNAs and their targets may have important roles in the initiation and development of ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC2410296  PMID: 18560586
11.  MicroRNAs181 regulate the expression of p27Kip1 in human myeloid leukemia cells induced to differentiate by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2009;8(5):736-741.
Human myeloid leukemia cells exposed to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25D), a major cancer chemopreventive agent, acquire features of normal monocytes and arrest in the G1 phase of the cell cycle, due to the upregulation of p27Kip1 and p21Cip1, but the mechanism is not clear. Here evidence is provided that an exposure of HL60 and U937 cells to low (1–10 nM) concentrations of 1,25D decreases the expression of miR181a and miR181b in a concentration and time-dependent manner. Since the predicted miR181 targets include the 3'-UTR of p27Kip1, we expressed pre-miR181a in these cells, and found that the elevation of cellular miR181a levels abrogates the 1,25D-induced increase in p27Kip1 at both mRNA and protein levels. In contrast, transfection of pre-miR181a resulted in a slight elevation of p21Cip1 expression. Importantly, transfection of pre-miR181a blunted the effect of 1,25D on the expression of monocytic differentiation markers, and reduced the G1 block in 1,25D-treated cells, while transfection of anti-miR181a increased 1,25D-induced differentiation. Together, these data show that miR181a participates in 1,25D-induced differentiation of HL60 and U937 cells, and suggest that a high constitutive expression of members of miR181 family may contribute to the malignant phenotype in the myeloid lineage.
PMCID: PMC2804747  PMID: 19221487
MicroRNA 181; vitamin D; p27Kip1; p21Cip1; myeloid leukemia; differentiation
12.  MiR-138 and MiR-135 Directly Target Focal Adhesion Kinase, Inhibit Cell Invasion, and Increase Sensitivity to Chemotherapy in Cancer Cells 
Focal Adhesion Kinase is a 125 kDa non-receptor kinase and overexpressed in many types of tumors. Recently, short noncoding RNAs, called microRNAs have been discovered as regulators of gene expression mainly through binding to the untranslated region (UTR) of mRNA. In this report we show that MiR-138 and MiR-135 down-regulated FAK expression in cancer cells. MiR-138 and MiR-135 inhibited FAK protein expression in different cancer cell lines. The computer analysis of 3′FAK-untranslated region (FAK-UTR) identified one conserved MiR-138 binding site (CACCAGCA) at positions 3514-3521 and one conserved MiR-135 (AAGCCAU) binding site at positions 4278-4284 in the FAK-UTR. By a dual-luciferase assay we demonstrate that MiR-138 and MiR-135 directly bound the FAK untranslated region using FAK-UTR-Target (FAK-UTR) luciferase plasmid and inhibited its luciferase activity. The site-directed mutagenesis of the MiR-138 and MiR-135 binding sites in the FAK-UTR abrogated MiR-138 and MiR-135-directed inhibition of FAK-UTR. Real-time PCR demonstrated that cells transfected with MiR-138 and MiR-135 expressed decreased FAK mRNA levels. Moreover, stable expression of MiR-138 and MiR-135 in 293 and HeLa cells decreased cell invasion and increased sensitivity to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), FAK inhibitor, Y15, and doxorubicin. In addition, MiR-138 significantly decreased 293 xenograft tumor growth in vivo. This is the first report on regulation of FAK expression by MiR-135 and MiR138 that affected invasion, drug sensitivity, and tumor growth in cancer cells, which is important to the development of FAK-targeted therapeutics and understanding their novel regulations and functions.
PMCID: PMC3883917  PMID: 23438844
Cancer; expression; Focal Adhesion Kinase; invasion; microRNA; tumor
13.  miR-181b as a key regulator of the oncogenic process and its clinical implications in cancer (Review) 
Biomedical Reports  2013;2(1):7-11.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) are small, non-coding, single-stranded RNA molecules that regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level to repress protein expression of target genes. Among these, miR-181b has been found to be a critical regulatory miRNA linking inflammation and cancer. The functional significance of miR-181b in various tumors and translational research suggests that it exhibits great potential as a predictive and prognostic biomarker. Extensive efforts are underway to identify mRNA targets and the affected regulatory networks, which may be the key to providing a better understanding of miR-181b-mediated signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3917097  PMID: 24649060
miRNA; miR-181b; oncogene; tumor suppressor gene; regulator
14.  MicroRNA-24 regulates XIAP to reduce the apoptosis threshold in cancer cells 
Oncogene  2012;32(19):2442-2451.
MicroRNAs have been implicated as important mediators of cancer cell homeostasis, and accumulating data suggest compelling roles for them in the apoptosis pathway. X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) is a potent caspase inhibitor and an important barrier to apoptotic cell death, but the mechanisms which determine the diverse range of XIAP expression seen in cancer remains unclear. In this study, we present evidence that miR-24 directly targets the 3′UTR of the XIAP mRNA to exert translational repression. Using a heuristic algorithm of bioinformatics analysis and in vitro screening, we identified miR-24 as a candidate regulator of XIAP expression. Array CGH and SKY analysis reveal that genomic copy number loss at the miR-24 locus is concordant with loss of endogenous miR-24 in cancer cells. Using a luciferase construct of the XIAP 3′UTR, we showed that miR-24 specifically coordinates to the XIAP mRNA. And interference with miR-24’s binding of the critical seed region, resulting from site-directed mutagenesis of the 3′UTR, significantly abrogated miR-24’s effects on XIAP expression. Moreover, miR-24 over-expression can overcome apoptosis-resistance in cancer cells via down-regulation of XIAP expression, and the resulting cancer cell death induced by TRAIL is executed by the canonical caspase-mediated apoptosis pathway. In summary, our data suggest a novel mechanism by which miR-24 directly modulates XIAP expression level and consequently the apoptosis threshold in cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3460034  PMID: 22733138
microRNA; cancer; XIAP
15.  miR-198 Inhibits HIV-1 Gene Expression and Replication in Monocytes and Its Mechanism of Action Appears To Involve Repression of Cyclin T1 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(1):e1000263.
Cyclin T1 is a regulatory subunit of a general RNA polymerase II elongation factor known as P-TEFb. Cyclin T1 is also required for Tat transactivation of HIV-1 LTR-directed gene expression. Translation of Cyclin T1 mRNA has been shown to be repressed in human monocytes, and this repression is relieved when cells differentiate to macrophages. We identified miR-198 as a microRNA (miRNA) that is strongly down-regulated when monocytes are induced to differentiate. Ectopic expression of miR-198 in tissue culture cells reduced Cyclin T1 protein expression, and plasmid reporter assays verified miR-198 target sequences in the 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of Cyclin T1 mRNA. Cyclin T1 protein levels increased when an inhibitor of miR-198 was transfected into primary monocytes, and overexpression of miR-198 in primary monocytes repressed the normal up-regulation of Cyclin T1 during differentiation. Expression of an HIV-1 proviral plasmid and HIV-1 replication were repressed in a monocytic cell line upon overexpression of miR-198. Our data indicate that miR-198 functions to restrict HIV-1 replication in monocytes, and its mechanism of action appears to involve repression of Cyclin T1 expression.
Author Summary
Monocytes do not support HIV-1 replication, in part because they do not express adequate levels of essential cellular cofactors that mediate steps in the viral replication cycle. Monocytes become permissive for viral replication upon differentiation to macrophages, indicating that cellular cofactors are induced during the differentiation process. One such cofactor is Cyclin T1, which is not expressed in monocytes and is expressed at high levels following macrophage differentiation. Cyclin T1 functions to greatly stimulate the amount of HIV-1 produced in the infected cell. We identified a microRNA (miRNA) named miR-198 that represses the expression of Cyclin T1 in monocytes. miRNAs block expression of proteins by binding to messenger RNAs and preventing their translation by ribosomes. The expression levels of miR-198 are greatly reduced in macrophages, and this appears to allow translation of Cyclin T1 mRNA and expression of Cyclin T1 protein. Our study indicates that this miRNA restricts HIV-1 replication in monocytes. We think that it is possible, if not likely, that additional miRNAs in monocytes also restrict HIV-1 replication by repressing other essential cellular cofactors.
PMCID: PMC2607557  PMID: 19148268
16.  Proteins binding to 5' untranslated region sites: a general mechanism for translational regulation of mRNAs in human and yeast cells. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1994;14(9):5898-5909.
We demonstrate that a bacteriophage protein and a spliceosomal protein can be converted into eukaryotic translational repressor proteins. mRNAs with binding sites for the bacteriophage MS2 coat protein or the spliceosomal human U1A protein were expressed in human HeLa cells and yeast. The presence of the appropriate binding protein resulted in specific, dose-dependent translational repression when the binding sites were located in the 5' untranslated region (UTR) of the reporter mRNAs. Neither mRNA export from the nucleus to the cytoplasm nor mRNA stability was demonstrably affected by the binding proteins. The data thus reveal a general mechanism for translational regulation: formation of mRNA-protein complexes in the 5' UTR controls translation initiation by steric blockage of a sensitive step in the initiation pathway. Moreover, the findings establish the basis for novel strategies to study RNA-protein interactions in vivo and to clone RNA-binding proteins.
PMCID: PMC359116  PMID: 8065323
17.  The miR-17-5p microRNA is a key regulator of the G1/S phase cell cycle transition 
Genome Biology  2008;9(8):R127.
Novel targets of the oncogenic miR-17-92 cluster have been identified and the mechanism of regulation of proliferation at the G1/S phase cell cycle transition via the miR-17-5p microRNA has been elucidated.
MicroRNAs are modifiers of gene expression, acting to reduce translation through either translational repression or mRNA cleavage. Recently, it has been shown that some microRNAs can act to promote or suppress cell transformation, with miR-17-92 described as the first oncogenic microRNA. The association of miR-17-92 encoded microRNAs with a surprisingly broad range of cancers not only underlines the clinical significance of this locus, but also suggests that miR-17-92 may regulate fundamental biological processes, and for these reasons miR-17-92 has been considered as a therapeutic target.
In this study, we show that miR-17-92 is a cell cycle regulated locus, and ectopic expression of a single microRNA (miR-17-5p) is sufficient to drive a proliferative signal in HEK293T cells. For the first time, we reveal the mechanism behind this response - miR-17-5p acts specifically at the G1/S-phase cell cycle boundary, by targeting more than 20 genes involved in the transition between these phases. While both pro- and anti-proliferative genes are targeted by miR-17-5p, pro-proliferative mRNAs are specifically up-regulated by secondary and/or tertiary effects in HEK293T cells.
The miR-17-5p microRNA is able to act as both an oncogene and a tumor suppressor in different cellular contexts; our model of competing positive and negative signals can explain both of these activities. The coordinated suppression of proliferation-inhibitors allows miR-17-5p to efficiently de-couple negative regulators of the MAPK (mitogen activated protein kinase) signaling cascade, promoting growth in HEK293T cells. Additionally, we have demonstrated the utility of a systems biology approach as a unique and rapid approach to uncover microRNA function.
PMCID: PMC2575517  PMID: 18700987
18.  miR-221/222 Targets Adiponectin Receptor 1 to Promote the Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66502.
The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a highly conserved physiological program involved in development and tissue repair; however, its aberrant activation has been implicated in accelerating the progression of a variety of cancers. In breast cancer, the microRNAs (miRNAs) miR-221 and miR-222 (miR-221/222) are differentially expressed in the clinically more aggressive basal-like subtype compared to luminal subtype of breast cancer and upregulation of miR-221/222 induces the EMT by targeting the 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of the GATA family transcriptional repressor TRPS1 (tricho-rhino-phalangeal syndrome type 1). The complete mechanism through which miR-221/222 promotes the EMT, however, is not fully understood. We identified adiponectin receptor 1 (ADIPOR1), a receptor for the adipocytokine adiponectin, as a direct target of miR-221/222. ADIPOR1 is expressed at higher levels in the luminal compared to the basal-like subtype of breast cancer cell lines, which can be reduced by miR-221/222 targeting of its 3’UTR. In addition, miR-221/222 were negatively correlated with ADIPOR1 expression across breast cancer cell lines and tumors. ADIPOR1 depletion by siRNA in MCF10A cells induced the EMT and increased cell invasion. Depletion of ADIPOR1 by siRNA induced activation of the canonical nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) and subsequent phosphorylation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) in an interleukin 6 (IL6)-dependent manner. Finally, overexpression of ADIPOR1 in the basal-like cell line, MDA-MB-231, attenuated cell invasion and promoted the mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET). We conclude that ADIPOR1 negatively regulates EMT in breast cancer and provides an additional node by which miR-221/222 induces the EMT. These results suggest that ADIPOR1 may play an important role in breast cancer progression and metastasis, and could potentially offer an alternative therapeutic strategy for basal-like breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3679042  PMID: 23776679
19.  MicroRNA-125b Induces Metastasis by Targeting STARD13 in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 Breast Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e35435.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression by targeting mRNAs to trigger either translation repression or mRNA degradation. miR-125b is down-regulated in human breast cancer cells compared with the normal ones except highly metastatic tumor cells MDA-MB-231. However, few functional studies were designed to investigate metastatic potential of miR-125b. In this study, the effects of miR-125b on metastasis in human breast cancer cells were studied, and the targets of miR-125b were also explored. Transwell migration assay, cell wound healing assay, adhesion assay and nude mice model of metastasis were utilized to investigate the effects of miR-125b on metastasis potential in vitro and in vivo. In addition, it was implied STARD13 (DLC2) was a direct target of miR-125b by Target-Scan analysis, luciferase reporter assay and western blot. Furthermore, activation of STARD13 was identified responsible for metastasis induced by miR-125b through a siRNA targeting STARD13. qRT-PCR, immunofluorescent assay and western blot was used to observe the variation of Vimentin and α-SMA in breast cancer cells. In summary, our study provided new insights into the function of miR-125b during the metastasis of breat cancer cells and also suggested the role of miR-125b in pro-metastasis by targeting STARD13.
PMCID: PMC3365056  PMID: 22693547
20.  Constitutive activation of the ETS-1-miR-222 circuitry in metastatic melanoma 
Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research  2011;24(5):953-965.
MicroRNAs-221 and -222 are highly upregulated in several solid tumors, including melanomas. We demonstrate that the proto-oncogene ETS-1, involved in the pathogenesis of cancers of different origin, is a transcriptional regulator of miR-222 by direct binding to its promoter region. Differently from 293FT cells or early stage melanomas, where unphosphorylated ETS-1 represses miR-222 transcription, in metastatic melanoma the constitutively Thr-38 phosphorylated fraction of ETS-1 induces miR-222. Despite its stepwise decreased expression along with melanoma progression, the oncogenic activity of ETS-1 relies on its RAS/RAF/ERK-dependent phosphorylation status more than on its total amount. To close the loop, we demonstrate ETS-1 as a direct target of miR-222, but not miR-221, showing the novel option of their uncoupled functions. In addition, a spatial redistribution of ETS-1 protein from the nucleus to the cytoplasm is also evidenced in advanced melanoma cells. Finally, in vivo studies confirmed the contribution of miR-222 to the increased invasive potential obtained by ETS- silencing.
PMCID: PMC3272348  PMID: 21711453
ETS-1; melanoma; microRNA-222; tumor progression
21.  miR-181a Post-Transcriptionally Downregulates Oncogenic RalA and Contributes to Growth Inhibition and Apoptosis in Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32834.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of short RNAs that regulate gene expression through either translational repression or mRNA cleavage. miRNA-181a (miR-181a), one of the many miRNAs conserved among vertebrates, is differentially expressed in a variety of leukemia. However, its function in leukemia, particularly chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), is poorly understood. Here we have reported the identification of miR-181a targets by combining TargetScan software prediction and expression profiling through overexpression of miR-181a mimic in leukemic K562 cells. Four overlapping genes were found to be the likely targets of miR-181a. Among the four genes, RalA is a downstream molecule of bcr-abl fusion protein in ras signaling pathway. However, its role in CML remains elusive. Luciferase reporter and Western blot assays confirmed that RalA is a direct target of miR-181a. overexpression of miR-181a effectively suppresses cell growth and induces G2-phase arrest and apoptosis partially by targeting RalA in leukemic K562 cells. Using the KEGG database combined with recent publications, downstream signaling pathway of RalA was graphed by cytoscape software. Therefore, our study is the first to report that RalA is directly regulated by miR-181a and plays an important role in CML. The approach of computational prediction combined with expression profiling might be valuable for the identification of miRNA targets in animal.
PMCID: PMC3307705  PMID: 22442671
22.  miR-122 activates hepatitis C virus translation by a specialized mechanism requiring particular RNA components 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(17):7716-7729.
In animals, microRNAs (miRNAs) generally repress gene expression by binding to sites in the 3′-untranslated region (UTR) of target mRNAs. miRNAs have also been reported to repress or activate gene expression by binding to 5′-UTR sites, but the extent of such regulation and the factors that govern these different responses are unknown. Liver-specific miR-122 binds to sites in the 5′-UTR of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA and positively regulates the viral life cycle, in part by stimulating HCV translation. Here, we characterize the features that allow miR-122 to activate translation via the HCV 5′-UTR. We find that this regulation is a highly specialized process that requires uncapped RNA, the HCV internal ribosome entry site (IRES) and the 3′ region of miR-122. Translation activation does not involve a previously proposed structural transition in the HCV IRES and is mediated by Argonaute proteins. This study provides an important insight into the requirements for the miR-122–HCV interaction, and the broader consequences of miRNAs binding to 5′-UTR sites.
PMCID: PMC3177192  PMID: 21653556
23.  microRNA-21 overexpression contributes to cell proliferation by targeting PTEN in endometrioid endometrial cancer 
Oncology Letters  2012;4(6):1290-1296.
The aim of this study was to investigate the role of microRNA-21 (miR-21) in the regulation of phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted from chromosome-10 (PTEN) expression and proliferation of endometrioid endometrial cancer (EEC) cells. We performed a qRT-PCR assay with miR-21 and PTEN in 16 paired EEC tumor tissues and adjacent non-tumor endometrium. To investigate the regulation of PTEN by miR-21, we designed gain- and loss-of-function of miR-21 experiments in the KLE cell line by transfection with a synthetic miR-21 mimic and inhibitor. To validate the putative binding site of miR-21 in the 3′ untranslated region (3′-UTR) of PTEN messenger RNA (mRNA), a dual-luciferase reporter assay was carried out. To evaluate the potential effect of miR-21 on EEC proliferation, we performed both overexpression experiments, using an miR-21 mimic, and inhibition assays, using an miR-21 inhibitor. miR-21 was overexpressed in EEC and was inversely correlated with PTEN protein expression (P<0.001). miR-21 regulated PTEN protein expression and cell proliferation in the KLE cell line and the direct binding of miR-21 to the PTEN 3′-UTR was confirmed using a dual-luciferase reporter assay. The upregulation of miR-21 led to a significant decrease in the PTEN protein expression level (P=0.007). The downregulation of miR-21 led to a significant increase in PTEN protein (P=0.002). The expression of luciferase in the wt-PTEN-3′-UTR-pGL3 group was downregulated in the presence of the miR-21 mimic (P=0.001). miR-21 was overexpressed in EEC. In conclusion, we demonstrated that the expression of PTEN protein, but not mRNA, was negatively directly regulated by miR-21 in the KLE cell line. The overexpression of miR-21 modulated EEC cell proliferation through the downregulation of PTEN.
PMCID: PMC3506726  PMID: 23226804
miR-21; PTEN; endometrioid endometrial cancer; proliferation
24.  miR-449a causes Rb-dependent cell cycle arrest and senescence in prostate cancer cells 
Oncotarget  2010;1(5):349-358.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) that regulate gene expression by repressing translation or triggering the degradation of complementary mRNA sequences. Certain miRNAs have been shown to function as integral components of the p53 and/or retinoblastoma (Rb) regulatory networks. As such, miRNA dysregulation can have a profound effect on cancer development. Previous studies have shown that miR-449a is down-regulated in human prostate cancer tissue and possesses potential tumor suppressor function. In the present study, we identify miR-449a-mediated growth arrest in prostate cancer cells is dependent on the Rb protein. We show that mutant Rb prostate cancer cells (DU-145) are resistant to cell cycle arrest and cellular senescence induced by miR-449a, while overexpression of wild-type Rb in DU-145 sublines (DU-1.1 and B5) restores miR-449a function. In silico analysis of 3’UTR regions reveal a putative miR-449a target site in the transcript of Cyclin D1 (CCND1); an oncogene involved in directly regulating Rb activity and cell cycle progression. Luciferase 3’UTR reporter constructs and inhibitory oligonucleotides confirm that Cyclin D1 is a direct downstream target of miR-449a. We also reveal that miR-449a suppresses Rb phosphorylation through the knockdown of Cyclin D1 and previously validated target HDAC1. By targeting genes involved in controlling Rb activity, miR-449a regulates growth and senescence in an Rb-dependent manner. These data indicate that miR-449a is a miRNA component of the Rb pathway and its tumor suppressor-like effects, in part, depends on Rb status in prostate cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC2952964  PMID: 20948989
Prostate cancer; miRNA; miR-449a; retinoblastoma; CCND1; HDAC1; p27; cell cycle; cellular senescence
25.  miR-449a causes Rb-dependent cell cycle arrest and senescence in prostate cancer cells 
Oncotarget  2010;1(5):349-358.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) that regulate gene expression by repressing translation or triggering the degradation of complementary mRNA sequences. Certain miRNAs have been shown to function as integral components of the p53 and/or retinoblastoma (Rb) regulatory networks. As such, miRNA dysregulation can have a profound effect on cancer development. Previous studies have shown that miR-449a is down-regulated in human prostate cancer tissue and possesses potential tumor suppressor function. In the present study, we identify miR-449a-mediated growth arrest in prostate cancer cells is dependent on the Rb protein. We show that mutant Rb prostate cancer cells (DU-145) are resistant to cell cycle arrest and cellular senescence induced by miR-449a, while overexpression of wild-type Rb in DU-145 sublines (DU-1.1 and B5) restores miR-449a function. In silico analysis of 3'UTR regions reveal a putative miR-449a target site in the transcript of Cyclin D1 (CCND1); an oncogene involved in directly regulating Rb activity and cell cycle progression. Luciferase 3'UTR reporter constructs and inhibitory oligonucleotides confirm that Cyclin D1 is a direct downstream target of miR-449a. We also reveal that miR-449a suppresses Rb phosphorylation through the knockdown of Cyclin D1 and previously validated target HDAC1. By targeting genes involved in controlling Rb activity, miR-449a regulates growth and senescence in an Rb-dependent manner. These data indicate that miR-449a is a miRNA component of the Rb pathway and its tumor suppressor-like effects, in part, depends on Rb status in prostate cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC2952964  PMID: 20948989
Prostate cancer; miRNA; miR-449a; retinoblastoma; CCND1; HDAC1; p27; cell cycle; cellular senescence

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