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1.  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
2.  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
3.  Up-regulated MicroRNA-181a induces carcinogenesis in Hepatitis B virus-related hepatocellular carcinoma by targeting E2F5 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:97.
Accumulating evidence showed that microRNAs are involved in development and progression of multiple tumors. Recent studies have found that miR-181a were dysregulated in several types of cancers, however, the function of miR-181a in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear. In this study we assessed the potential association between miR-181a, HBV and HCC.
The expression of miR-181a in HBV-expressing cells was determined by using qRT-PCR. Dual-Luciferase reporter Assay, qRT-PCR and western blot were performed to investigate the target genes of miR-181a. The effects of miR-181a on HCC proliferation were analyzed by MTS and colony formation assay. Tumor growth assay was used to analyze the effect of miR-181a on tumor formation.
HBV up-regulated miR-181a expression by enhancing its promoter activity. Overexpression of miR-181a in hepatoma cells promoted cell growth in vitro and tumor formation in vivo. Conversely, inhibition of miR-181a suppressed the proliferation of HBV-expressing cells. Mechanism investigation revealed that miR-181a inhibited the expression of transcription factor E2F5 by specifically targeting its mRNA 3′UTR. Moreover, E2F5 inhibition induced cell growth and rescued the suppressive effect of miR-181a inhibitor on the proliferation of SMMC-7721 cells. Interestingly, we also discovered that HBV could down-regulate E2F5 expression.
Those results strongly suggested that HBV down-regulated E2F5 expression, in part, by up-regulating the expression of miR-181a. Up-regulation of miR-181a by HBV in hepatoma cells may contribute to the progression of HCC possibly by targeting E2F5, suggesting miR-181a plays important role in HCC development.
PMCID: PMC3930291  PMID: 24529171
HCC; HBV; miR-181a; E2F5; Cell proliferation
4.  A deep investigation into the adipogenesis mechanism: Profile of microRNAs regulating adipogenesis by modulating the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:320.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a large class of tiny non-coding RNAs (~22-24 nt) that regulate diverse biological processes at the posttranscriptional level by controlling mRNA stability or translation. As a molecular switch, the canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway should be suppressed during the adipogenesis; However, activation of this pathway leads to the inhibition of lipid depots formation. The aim of our studies was to identify miRNAs that might be involved in adipogenesis by modulating WNT signaling pathway. Here we established two types of cell model, activation and repression of WNT signaling, and investigated the expression profile of microRNAs using microarray assay.
The high throughput microarray data revealed 18 miRNAs that might promote adipogenesis by repressing WNT signaling: miR-210, miR-148a, miR-194, miR-322 etc. Meanwhile, we also identified 29 miRNAs that might have negative effect on adipogenesis by activating WNT signaling: miR-344, miR-27 and miR-181 etc. The targets of these miRNAs were also analysed by bioinformatics. To validate the predicted targets and the potential functions of these identified miRNAs, the mimics of miR-210 were transfected into 3T3-L1 cells and enlarged cells with distinct lipid droplets were observed; Meanwhile, transfection with the inhibitor of miR-210 could markedly decrease differentiation-specific factors at the transcription level, which suggested the specific role of miR-210 in promoting adipogenesis. Tcf7l2, the predicted target of miR-210, is a transcription factor triggering the downstream responsive genes of WNT signaling, was blocked at transcription level. Furthermore, the activity of luciferase reporter bearing Tcf7l2 mRNA 3' UTR was decreased after co-transfection with miR-210 in HEK-293FT cells. Last but not least, the protein expression level of β-catenin was increased in the lithium (LiCl) treated 3T3-L1 cells after transfection with miR-210. These findings suggested that miR-210 could promote adipogenesis by repressing WNT signaling through targeting Tcf7l2.
The results suggest the presence of miRNAs in two cell models, providing insights into WNT pathway-specific miRNAs that can be further characterized for their potential roles in adipogenesis. To our knowledge, present study represents the first attempt to unveil the profile of miRNAs involed in adipogenesis by modulating WNT signaling pathway, which contributed to deeper investigation of the mechanism of adipogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2895628  PMID: 20492721
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.  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
7.  A component of the mir-17-92 polycistronic oncomir promotes oncogene-dependent apoptosis 
eLife  2013;2:e00822.
mir-17-92, a potent polycistronic oncomir, encodes six mature miRNAs with complex modes of interactions. In the Eμ-myc Burkitt’s lymphoma model, mir-17-92 exhibits potent oncogenic activity by repressing c-Myc-induced apoptosis, primarily through its miR-19 components. Surprisingly, mir-17-92 also encodes the miR-92 component that negatively regulates its oncogenic cooperation with c-Myc. This miR-92 effect is, at least in part, mediated by its direct repression of Fbw7, which promotes the proteosomal degradation of c-Myc. Thus, overexpressing miR-92 leads to aberrant c-Myc increase, imposing a strong coupling between excessive proliferation and p53-dependent apoptosis. Interestingly, miR-92 antagonizes the oncogenic miR-19 miRNAs; and such functional interaction coordinates proliferation and apoptosis during c-Myc-induced oncogenesis. This miR-19:miR-92 antagonism is disrupted in B-lymphoma cells that favor a greater increase of miR-19 over miR-92. Altogether, we suggest a new paradigm whereby the unique gene structure of a polycistronic oncomir confers an intricate balance between oncogene and tumor suppressor crosstalk.
eLife digest
The role of genes, in very simple terms, is to be transcribed into messenger RNA molecules, which are then translated into strings of amino acids that fold into proteins. Each of these steps is extremely complex, and a wide range of other molecules can speed up, slow down, stop or otherwise disrupt the expression of genes as protein products. Genes can also code for nucleic acids that are not translated into proteins, such as microRNAs. These are small RNA molecules that can reduce the production of proteins by repressing the translation step and/or by partially degrading the messenger RNA molecules.
mir-17-92 is a gene that exemplifies much of this complexity. It codes for six different microRNAs in a single primary transcript, and has been implicated in a number of cancers, including lung cancer, Burkitt’s lymphoma and other forms of lymphomas and leukemia. One of six microRNAs has a longer evolutionary history than the remaining five: mir-92 is found in vertebrates, chordates and invertebrates, whereas the other five are only found in vertebrates. However, it is not known how or why the mir-17-92 gene evolved to code for multiple different microRNAs.
Olive et al. have studied how these mir-17-92 microRNAs functionally interact in mice with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that is associated with a gene called c-Myc being over-activated. Mutations in this gene promote the proliferation of cells, and in cooperation with other genetic lesions, this ultimately leads to cancer. mir-17-92 is implicated in this cancer because it represses the process of programmed cell death (which is induced by the protein c-Myc) that the body employs to stop tumors growing.
Olive et al. found that deleting one of the six microRNAs, miR-92, increased the tendency of the mir-17-92 gene to promote Burkitt’s lymphoma. By repressing an enzyme called Fbw7, miR-92 causes high levels of c-Myc to be produced. While this leads to the uncontrolled proliferation of cells that promotes cancer, it also increases programmed cell death, at least in part, by activating the p53 pathway, a well-known tumor suppression pathway. The experiments also revealed that the action of miR-92 and that of one of the other microRNAs, miR-19, were often opposed to each other. These findings have revealed an unexpected interaction among different components within a single microRNA gene, which acts to maintain an intricate balance between pathways that promote and suppress cancer.
PMCID: PMC3796314  PMID: 24137534
microRNAs; c-Myc; Eμ-myc lymphoma; apoptosis; p53; Mouse
8.  miR-542-3p suppresses osteoblast cell proliferation and differentiation, targets BMP-7 signaling and inhibits bone formation 
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(2):e1050-.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs that interfere with translation of specific target mRNAs and thereby regulate diverse biological processes. Recent studies have suggested that miRNAs might have a role in osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Here, we show that miR-542-3p, a well-characterized tumor suppressor whose downregulation is tightly associated with tumor progression via C-src-related oncogenic pathways, inhibits osteoblast proliferation and differentiation. miRNA array profiling in Medicarpin (a pterocarpan with proven bone-forming effects) induced mice calvarial osteoblast cells and further validation by quantitative real-time PCR revealed that miR-542-3p was downregulated during osteoblast differentiation. Over-expression of miR-542-3p inhibited osteoblast differentiation, whereas inhibition of miR-542-3p function by anti-miR-542-3p promoted expression of osteoblast-specific genes, alkaline phosphatase activity and matrix mineralization. Target prediction analysis tools and experimental validation by luciferase 3′ UTR reporter assay identified BMP-7 (bone morphogenetic protein 7) as a direct target of miR-542-3p. It was seen that over-expression of miR-542-3p leads to repression of BMP-7 and inhibition of BMP-7/PI3K- survivin signaling. This strongly suggests that miR-542-3p suppresses osteogenic differentiation and promotes osteoblast apoptosis by repressing BMP-7 and its downstream signaling. Furthermore, silencing of miR-542-3p led to increased bone formation, bone strength and improved trabecular microarchitecture in sham and ovariectomized (Ovx) mice. Although miR-542-3p is known to be a tumor repressor, we have identified second complementary function of miR-542-3p where it inhibits BMP-7-mediated osteogenesis. Our findings suggest that pharmacological inhibition of miR-542-3p by anti-miR-542-3p could represent a therapeutic strategy for enhancing bone formation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3944264  PMID: 24503542
microRNAs; osteoblast differentiation; proliferation; bone formation; bone strength; trabecular microarchitecture
9.  MicroRNA-221 and microRNA-222 regulate gastric carcinoma cell proliferation and radioresistance by targeting PTEN 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:367.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) can function as either oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes via regulation of cell proliferation and/or apoptosis. MiR-221 and miR-222 were discovered to induce cell growth and cell cycle progression via direct targeting of p27 and p57 in various human malignancies. However, the roles of miR-221 and miR-222 have not been reported in human gastric cancer. In this study, we examined the impact of miR-221 and miR-222 on human gastric cancer cells, and identified target genes for miR-221 and miR-222 that might mediate their biology.
The human gastric cancer cell line SGC7901 was transfected with AS-miR-221/222 or transduced with pMSCV-miR-221/222 to knockdown or restore expression of miR-221 and miR-222, respectively. The effects of miR-221 and miR-222 were then assessed by cell viability, cell cycle analysis, apoptosis, transwell, and clonogenic assay. Potential target genes were identified by Western blot and luciferase reporter assay.
Upregulation of miR-221 and miR-222 induced the malignant phenotype of SGC7901 cells, whereas knockdown of miR-221 and miR-222 reversed this phenotype via induction of PTEN expression. In addition, knockdonwn of miR-221 and miR-222 inhibited cell growth and invasion and increased the radiosensitivity of SGC7901 cells. Notably, the seed sequence of miR-221 and miR-222 matched the 3'UTR of PTEN, and introducing a PTEN cDNA without the 3'UTR into SGC7901 cells abrogated the miR-221 and miR-222-induced malignant phenotype. PTEN-3'UTR luciferase reporter assay confirmed PTEN as a direct target of miR-221 and miR-222.
These results demonstrate that miR-221 and miR-222 regulate radiosensitivity, and cell growth and invasion of SGC7901 cells, possibly via direct modulation of PTEN expression. Our study suggests that inhibition of miR-221 and miR-222 might form a novel therapeutic strategy for human gastric cancer.
PMCID: PMC2914702  PMID: 20618998
10.  Modulation of the Osteosarcoma Expression Phenotype by MicroRNAs 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48086.
Osteosarcomas are the most common primary malignant tumors of bone and show multiple and complex genomic aberrations. miRNAs are non-coding RNAs capable of regulating gene expression at the post transcriptional level, and miRNAs and their target genes may represent novel therapeutic targets or biomarkers for osteosarcoma. In order to investigate the involvement of miRNAs in osteosarcoma development, global microarray analyses of a panel of 19 human osteosarcoma cell lines was performed.
Principal findings
We identified 177 miRNAs that were differentially expressed in osteosarcoma cell lines relative to normal bone. Among these, miR-126/miR-126*, miR-142-3p, miR-150, miR-223, miR-486-5p and members of the miR-1/miR-133a, miR-144/miR-451, miR-195/miR-497 and miR-206/miR-133b clusters were found to be downregulated in osteosarcoma cell lines. All miRNAs in the paralogous clusters miR-17-92, miR-106b-25 and miR-106a-92 were overexpressed. Furthermore, the upregulated miRNAs included miR-9/miR-9*, miR-21*, miR-31/miR-31*, miR-196a/miR-196b, miR-374a and members of the miR-29 and miR-130/301 families. The most interesting inversely correlated miRNA/mRNA pairs in osteosarcoma cell lines included miR-9/TGFBR2 and miR-29/p85α regulatory subunit of PI3K. PTEN mRNA correlated inversely with miR-92a and members of the miR-17 and miR-130/301 families. Expression profiles of selected miRNAs were confirmed in clinical samples. A set of miRNAs, miR-1, miR-18a, miR-18b, miR-19b, miR-31, miR-126, miR-142-3p, miR-133b, miR-144, miR-195, miR-223, miR-451 and miR-497 was identified with an intermediate expression level in osteosarcoma clinical samples compared to osteoblasts and bone, which may reflect the differentiation level of osteosarcoma relative to the undifferentiated osteoblast and fully differentiated normal bone. Significance: This study provides an integrated analysis of miRNA and mRNA in osteosarcoma, and gives new insight into the complex genetic mechanisms of osteosarcoma development and progression.
PMCID: PMC3485010  PMID: 23133552
11.  A microRNA network functioning in the regulation of radiobiological effects 
Journal of Radiation Research  2014;55(Suppl 1):i57-i58.
MicroRNA (miRNA), a small non-coding RNA molecule, is vital in genetic regulation, and miRNA pathway, which regulates gene expression through degradation or translational suppression of their target transcripts, is highly conservative in evolution.
Although profiles of miRNAs are different in various cell types and tissues, miRNAs have been considered as a crucial class of regulators in cellular response to ionizing radiation (IR). By carrying out a series of experiments, we have found that altered transcriptional regulation network composed of radiation-mediated miRNAs regulates the expression of their downstream target genes in most biological processes to control cell growth, cell cycle and apoptosis. For example, the newly identified miR-3928 negatively regulates the expression of Dicer, which has been validated by the luciferase assay and western blotting. Dicer is not only a key participant in responding to radiation, but also a critical factor for the maturation of miRNAs, suggesting that miR-3928 affects on the expression of other miRNAs through regulating Dicer. Among the miRNAs controlled by the Dicer, we reveal that miR-185 and miR-663 can efficiently suppress ATR and TGF-β1 expression, which are both important responders in the process of radiobiological effects. Further experiments reveal that the expression of Dicer is suppressed by miR-3928 induced by IR and consequently, the maturation of other miRNAs including miR-185 and miR-663 is inhibited, resulting in the abundantly enhanced expression of ATR and TGF-β1 respectively. This mechanism to hammer at fixing DNA damage or promote cells to apoptosis caused by IR has important implications in the decision of cell fates.
Moreover, it has been shown that the expression of BTG1 is characterized in response to factors that induce growth arrest and subsequent differentiation both in vivo and in vitro, affecting cellular physiological progresses of angiogenesis, follicular development and myoblast and B cell differentiation, through regulating cell growth, migration, cell cycle, apoptosis and differentiation. BTG1 gene is phylogenetically highly conserved in its coding and 3′-untranslated region (UTR), which is considered as a decisive element involved in regulation of BTG1 expression. We present evidence that BTG1 can be induced by IR and confirm that miR-454-3p, whose gene locates in the intron of Ska2 gene, can regulate BTG1 expression through directly binding to the 3′-UTR of BTG1 mRNA. These results point out that increased expression of BTG1 caused by the down-regulation of miR-454-3p in case that IR modulates endogenous activity of PRMT1, a BTG1-binding partner, which can methylate endogenous transcription factors to change gene expression pattern and reply radiostilumation. An inverse relationship between the levels of expression of BTG1 and miR-454-3p reveals that there exists a new pathway in response to IR stimulation. Furthermore, cell growth will be transiently increased by the knockdown of BTG1 by transfecting BTG1 siRNA or miR-454-3p mimic. However, the apoptotic state of cells can be tested after 2 days. Down-regulation of BTG1 by miR-454-3p increases the sensitivity of human renal cell carcinoma 786-O cells to IR-induced apoptosis, suggesting that BTG1 could serve as a terget for sensitizing renal carcinoma to standard radiotherapy.
Taken together, all these data indicate that alteration of miRNA expression is evident in the cellular response to IR. MiR-3928, miR-185, miR-663 and miR-454-3p may constitute a complex network contributing to the regulation of radiobiological effects. It is apparent that the study of radiation-related miRNAs is beneficial to qualitatively and quantitatively modulating radiobiological effects, and also in favor of the advanced research of miRNA functions.
PMCID: PMC3941529
microRNA; network; Dicer; BTG1; ionizing radiation
12.  MicroRNAs expression signatures are associated with lineage and survival in acute leukemias 
Blood cells, molecules & diseases  2010;44(3):191-197.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small (~22 nucleotide) non-coding RNAs whose altered expression has been associated with various types of cancers, including leukemia. In the present study, we conducted a quantitative PCR (qPCR) analysis of expression of 23 human precursor miRNAs in bone marrow specimens of 85 Chinese primary leukemia patients, including 53 acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and 32 acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cases. We show that 16 miRNAs were differentially expressed between AMLs and ALLs; Of them, eight were previously reported (i.e., miR-23a, miR-27a/b, miR-128a, miR-128b, miR-221, miR-222, miR-223, and let-7b) and eight were newly identified (i.e., miR-17, miR-20a, miR-29a/c, miR-29b, miR-146a, miR-150, miR-155, and miR-196b). More importantly, through correlating miRNA expression signatures with outcome of patients, we further show that expression signatures of a group of miRNAs are associated with overall survival of patients. Of them, three (i.e., miR-146a, miR-181a/c, and miR-221), five (i.e., miR-25, miR-26a, miR-29b, miR-146a, and miR-196b), and three (i.e., miR-26a, miR-29b, and miR-146a) miRNAs are significantly associated with overall survival (P<0.05) of the 32 ALL, 53 AML, and 40 non-M3 AML patients, respectively. Particularly, the expression signature of miR-146a is significantly inversely correlated with overall survival of both ALL and AML patients. The prognostic significance of miR-146a in AML has been confirmed further in an independent study of 61 Chinese new AML patient samples. We also identified 622 putative target genes of miR-146a that are predicted by at least three out of the five major prediction programs (i.e., TragetScan, PicTar, miRanda, miRBase Targets, and PITA); Through gene ontology analysis, we found that these genes were particularly enriched (2–9 fold higher than expected by chance) in the GO categories of “negative regulation of biology processes”, “negative regulation of cellular processes”, “apoptosis”, and “cell cycle”, which may be related to the association of miR-146a with poor survival.
PMCID: PMC2829339  PMID: 20110180
microRNA; acute leukemia; lineage; survival analysis; miR-146a
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  MiRNA-221 negatively regulated downstream p27Kip1 gene expression involvement in pterygium pathogenesis 
Molecular Vision  2014;20:1048-1056.
MiRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that have been implicated in tumor development. They regulate target gene expression either by mRNA degradation or by translation repression. Activation of β-catenin has been linked to pterygium progression. Here, we hypothesize that β-catenin-associated miRNA, miRNA-221, and downstream p27Kip1 gene expression are correlated with the pathogenesis of pterygium.
We collected 120 pterygial and 120 normal conjunctival samples for this study. Immunohistochemistry and real-time reverse transcription (RT)–PCR were performed to determine β-catenin protein localization, miR-221, and p27Kip1 gene expression. Pterygium cell line (PECs) cell models were used to confirm the effect of β-catenin, miR-221, and p27Kip1 gene in the proliferation of pterygium cells.
Seventy-two (60.0%) pterygial specimens showed high miR-221 expression levels, which was significantly higher than the control groups (13 of 120, 10.8%, p<0.0001). MiR-221 expression was significantly higher in β-catenin-nuclear/cytoplasmic-positive groups than in β-catenin membrane-positive and negative groups (p=0.001). We also found that p27Kip1 gene expression in pterygium was negatively correlated with miR-221 expression (p=0.002). In the clinical association, miR-221 expression was significantly higher in the fleshy and intermediate groups than in the atrophic group (p=0.007). The association of miR-221, p27Kip1 and proliferation of pterygium were also confirmed in the PECs model.
Our study demonstrated that activation of β-catenin in pterygium may interact with miR-221, resulting in p27Kip1 gene downregulation that influences pterygium pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4105113  PMID: 25053875
17.  Upregulation of MircoRNA-370 Induces Proliferation in Human Prostate Cancer Cells by Downregulating the Transcription Factor FOXO1 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45825.
Forkhead box protein O1 (FOXO1), a key member of the FOXO family of transcription factors, acts as a tumor suppressor and has been associated with various key cellular functions, including cell growth, differentiation, apoptosis and angiogenesis. Therefore, it is puzzling why FOXO protein expression is downregulated in cancer cells. MicroRNAs, non-coding 20∼22 nucleotide single-stranded RNAs, result in translational repression or degradation and gene silencing of their target genes, and significantly contribute to the regulation of gene expression. In the current study, we report that miR-370 expression was significantly upregulated in five prostate cancer cell lines, compared to normal prostatic epithelial (PrEC) cells. Ectopic expression of miR-370 induced proliferation and increased the anchorage-independent growth and colony formation ability of DU145 and LNCaP prostate cancer cells, while inhibition of miR-370 reduced proliferation, anchorage-independent growth and colony formation ability. Furthermore, upregulation of miR-370 promoted the entry of DU145 and LNCaP prostate cancer cells into the G1/S cell cycle transition, which was associated with downregulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors, p27Kip1 and p21Cip1, and upregulation of the cell-cycle regulator cyclin D1 mRNA. Additionally, we demonstrated that miR-370 can downregulate expression of FOXO1 by directly targeting the FOXO1 3′-untranslated region. Taken together, our results suggest that miR-370 plays an important role in the proliferation of human prostate cancer cells, by directly suppressing the tumor suppressor FOXO1.
PMCID: PMC3445500  PMID: 23029264
18.  microRNA-122 as a regulator of mitochondrial metabolic gene network in hepatocellular carcinoma 
A moderate loss of miR-122 function correlates with up-regulation of seed-matched genes and down-regulation of mitochondrially localized genes in both human hepatocellular carcinoma and in normal mice treated with anti-miR-122 antagomir.Putative direct targets up-regulated with loss of miR-122 and secondary targets down-regulated with loss of miR-122 are conserved between human beings and mice and are rapidly regulated in vitro in response to miR-122 over- and under-expression.Loss of miR-122 secondary target expression in either tumorous or adjacent non-tumorous tissue predicts poor survival of heptatocellular carcinoma patients.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most aggressive human malignancies, common in Asia, Africa, and in areas with endemic infections of hepatitis-B or -C viruses (HBV or HCV) (But et al, 2008). Globally, the 5-year survival rate of HCC is <5% and about 600 000 HCC patients die each year. The high mortality associated with this disease is mainly attributed to the failure to diagnose HCC patients at an early stage and a lack of effective therapies for patients with advanced stage HCC. Understanding the relationships between phenotypic and molecular changes in HCC is, therefore, of paramount importance for the development of improved HCC diagnosis and treatment methods.
In this study, we examined mRNA and microRNA (miRNA)-expression profiles of tumor and adjacent non-tumor liver tissue from HCC patients. The patient population was selected from a region of endemic HBV infection, and HBV infection appears to contribute to the etiology of HCC in these patients. A total of 96 HCC patients were included in the study, of which about 88% tested positive for HBV antigen; patients testing positive for HCV antigen were excluded. Among the 220 miRNAs profiled, miR-122 was the most highly expressed miRNA in liver, and its expression was decreased almost two-fold in HCC tissue relative to adjacent non-tumor tissue, confirming earlier observations (Lagos-Quintana et al, 2002; Kutay et al, 2006; Budhu et al, 2008).
Over 1000 transcripts were correlated and over 1000 transcripts were anti-correlated with miR-122 expression. Consistent with the idea that transcripts anti-correlated with miR-122 are potential miR-122 targets, the most highly anti-correlated transcripts were highly enriched for the presence of the miR-122 central seed hexamer, CACTCC, in the 3′UTR. Although the complete set of negatively correlated genes was enriched for cell-cycle genes, the subset of seed-matched genes had no significant KEGG Pathway annotation, suggesting that miR-122 is unlikely to directly regulate the cell cycle in these patients. In contrast, transcripts positively correlated with miR-122 were not enriched for 3′UTR seed matches to miR-122. Interestingly, these 1042 transcripts were enriched for genes coding for mitochondrially localized proteins and for metabolic functions.
To analyze the impact of loss of miR-122 in vivo, silencing of miR-122 was performed by antisense inhibition (anti-miR-122) in wild-type mice (Figure 3). As with the genes negatively correlated with miR-122 in HCC patients, no significant biological annotation was associated with the seed-matched genes up-regulated by anti-miR-122 in mouse livers. The most significantly enriched biological annotation for anti-miR-122 down-regulated genes, as for positively correlated genes in HCC, was mitochondrial localization; the down-regulated mitochondrial genes were enriched for metabolic functions. Putative direct and downstream targets with orthologs on both the human and mouse microarrays showed significant overlap for regulations in the same direction. These overlaps defined sets of putative miR-122 primary and secondary targets. The results were further extended in the analysis of a separate dataset from 180 HCC, 40 cirrhotic, and 6 normal liver tissue samples (Figure 4), showing anti-correlation of proposed primary and secondary targets in non-healthy tissues.
To validate the direct correlation between miR-122 and some of the primary and secondary targets, we determined the expression of putative targets after transfection of miR-122 mimetic into PLC/PRF/5 HCC cells, including the putative direct targets SMARCD1 and MAP3K3 (MEKK3), a target described in the literature, CAT-1 (SLC7A1), and three putative secondary targets, PPARGC1A (PGC-1α) and succinate dehydrogenase subunits A and B. As expected, the putative direct targets showed reduced expression, whereas the putative secondary target genes showed increased expression in cells over-expressing miR-122 (Figure 4).
Functional classification of genes using the total ancestry method (Yu et al, 2007) identified PPARGC1A (PGC-1α) as the most connected secondary target. PPARGC1A has been proposed to function as a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis (Ventura-Clapier et al, 2008), suggesting that loss of PPARGC1A expression may contribute to the loss of mitochondrial gene expression correlated with loss of miR-122 expression. To further validate the link of miR-122 and PGC-1α protein, we transfected PLC/PRF/5 cells with miR-122-expression vector, and observed an increase in PGC-1α protein levels. Importantly, transfection of both miR-122 mimetic and miR-122-expression vector significantly reduced the lactate content of PLC/PRF/5 cells, whereas anti-miR-122 treatment increased lactate production. Together, the data support the function of miR-122 in mitochondrial metabolic functions.
Patient survival was not directly associated with miR-122-expression levels. However, miR-122 secondary targets were expressed at significantly higher levels in both tumor and adjacent non-tumor tissues among survivors as compared with deceased patients, providing supporting evidence for the potential relevance of loss of miR-122 function in HCC patient morbidity and mortality.
Overall, our findings reveal potentially new biological functions for miR-122 in liver physiology. We observed decreased expression of miR-122, a liver-specific miRNA, in HBV-associated HCC, and loss of miR-122 seemed to correlate with the decrease of mitochondrion-related metabolic pathway gene expression in HCC and in non-tumor liver tissues, a result that is consistent with the outcome of treatment of mice with anti-miR-122 and is of prognostic significance for HCC patients. Further investigation will be conducted to dissect the regulatory function of miR-122 on mitochondrial metabolism in HCC and to test whether increasing miR-122 expression can improve mitochondrial function in liver and perhaps in liver tumor tissues. Moreover, these results support the idea that primary targets of a given miRNA may be distributed over a variety of functional categories while resulting in a coordinated secondary response, potentially through synergistic action (Linsley et al, 2007).
Tumorigenesis involves multistep genetic alterations. To elucidate the microRNA (miRNA)–gene interaction network in carcinogenesis, we examined their genome-wide expression profiles in 96 pairs of tumor/non-tumor tissues from hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Comprehensive analysis of the coordinate expression of miRNAs and mRNAs reveals that miR-122 is under-expressed in HCC and that increased expression of miR-122 seed-matched genes leads to a loss of mitochondrial metabolic function. Furthermore, the miR-122 secondary targets, which decrease in expression, are good prognostic markers for HCC. Transcriptome profiling data from additional 180 HCC and 40 liver cirrhotic patients in the same cohort were used to confirm the anti-correlation of miR-122 primary and secondary target gene sets. The HCC findings can be recapitulated in mouse liver by silencing miR-122 with antagomir treatment followed by gene-expression microarray analysis. In vitro miR-122 data further provided a direct link between induction of miR-122-controlled genes and impairment of mitochondrial metabolism. In conclusion, miR-122 regulates mitochondrial metabolism and its loss may be detrimental to sustaining critical liver function and contribute to morbidity and mortality of liver cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2950084  PMID: 20739924
hepatocellular carcinoma; microarray; miR-122; mitochondrial; survival
19.  miR-143 and miR-145 synergistically regulate ERBB3 to suppress cell proliferation and invasion in breast cancer 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13(1):220.
ERBB3, one of the four members of the ErbB family of receptor tyrosine kinases, plays an important role in breast cancer etiology and progression. In the present study, we aimed to identify novel miRNAs that can potentially target ERBB3 and their biological functions.
The expression levels of miR-143/145 and target mRNA were examined by relative quantification RT-PCR, and the expression levels of target protein were detected by Western blot. We used bioinformatic analyses to search for miRNAs that can potentially target ERBB3. Luciferase reporter plasmids were constructed to confirm direct targeting. Furthermore, the biological consequences of the targeting of ERBB3 by miR-143/145 were examined by cell proliferation and invasion assays in vitro and by the mouse xenograft tumor model in vivo.
We identified an inverse correlation between miR-143/145 levels and ERBB3 protein levels, but not between miR-143/145 levels and ERBB3 mRNA levels, in breast cancer tissue samples. We identified specific targeting sites for miR-143 and miR-145 (miR-143/145) in the 3’-untranslated region (3’-UTR) of the ERBB3 gene and regulate ERBB3 expression. We demonstrated that the repression of ERBB3 by miR-143/145 suppressed the proliferation and invasion of breast cancer cells, and that miR-143/145 showed an anti-tumor effect by negatively regulating ERBB3 in the xenograft mouse model. Interestingly, miR-143 and miR-145 showed a cooperative repression of ERBB3 expression and cell proliferation and invasion in breast cancer cells, such that the effects of the two miRNAs were greater than with either miR-143 or miR-145 alone.
Taken together, our findings provide the first clues regarding the role of the miR-143/145 cluster as a tumor suppressor in breast cancer through the inhibition of ERBB3 translation. These results also support the idea that different miRNAs in a cluster can synergistically repress a given target mRNA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1476-4598-13-220) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4181414  PMID: 25248370
microRNA; miR-143; miR-145; ERBB3; Breast cancer; Proliferation; Invasion
20.  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
21.  MicroRNAome profiling in benign and malignant neurofibromatosis type 1-associated nerve sheath tumors: evidences of PTEN pathway alterations in early NF1 tumorigenesis 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:473.
Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common dominant tumor predisposition syndrome affecting 1 in 3,500 individuals. The hallmarks of NF1 are the development of peripheral nerve sheath tumors either benign (dermal and plexiform neurofibromas) or malignant (MPNSTs).
To comprehensively characterize the role of microRNAs in NF1 tumorigenesis, we analyzed 377 miRNAs expression in a large panel of dermal and plexiform neurofibromas, and MPNSTs. The most significantly upregulated miRNA in plexiform neurofibromas was miR-486-3p that targets the major tumor suppressor gene, PTEN. We confirmed PTEN downregulation at mRNA level. In plexiform neurofibromas, we also report aberrant expression of four miRNAs involved in the RAS-MAPK pathway (miR-370, miR-143, miR-181a, and miR-145). In MPNSTs, significant deregulated miRNAs were involved in PTEN repression (miR-301a, miR-19a, and miR-106b), RAS-MAPK pathway regulation (Let-7b, miR-195, and miR-10b), mesenchymal transition (miR-200c, let-7b, miR-135a, miR-135b, and miR-9), HOX genes expression (miR-210, miR-196b, miR-10a, miR-10b, and miR-9), and cell cycle progression (miR-195, let-7b, miR-20a, miR-210, miR-129-3p, miR-449a, and miR-106b).
We confirmed the implication of PTEN in genesis of plexiform neurofibromas and MPNSTs in NF1. Markedly deregulated miRNAs might have potential diagnostic or prognostic value and could represent novel strategies for effective pharmacological therapies of NF1 tumors.
PMCID: PMC3744175  PMID: 23848554
NF1; Neurofibromatosis type 1; MicroRNAs; MPNST; Neurofibroma; PTEN
22.  A Novel Tumor-Promoting Function Residing in the 5′ Non-coding Region of vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e94.
Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF) is one of the key regulators of tumor development, hence it is considered to be an important therapeutic target for cancer treatment. However, clinical trials have suggested that anti-VEGF monotherapy was less effective than standard chemotherapy. On the basis of the evidence, we hypothesized that vegf mRNA may have unrecognized function(s) in cancer cells.
Methods and Findings
Knockdown of VEGF with vegf-targeting small-interfering (si) RNAs increased susceptibility of human colon cancer cell line (HCT116) to apoptosis caused with 5-fluorouracil, etoposide, or doxorubicin. Recombinant human VEGF165 did not completely inhibit this apoptosis. Conversely, overexpression of VEGF165 increased resistance to anti-cancer drug-induced apoptosis, while an anti-VEGF165-neutralizing antibody did not completely block the resistance. We prepared plasmids encoding full-length vegf mRNA with mutation of signal sequence, vegf mRNAs lacking untranslated regions (UTRs), or mutated 5′UTRs. Using these plasmids, we revealed that the 5′UTR of vegf mRNA possessed anti-apoptotic activity. The 5′UTR-mediated activity was not affected by a protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide. We established HCT116 clones stably expressing either the vegf 5′UTR or the mutated 5′UTR. The clones expressing the 5′UTR, but not the mutated one, showed increased anchorage-independent growth in vitro and formed progressive tumors when implanted in athymic nude mice. Microarray and quantitative real-time PCR analyses indicated that the vegf 5′UTR-expressing tumors had up-regulated anti-apoptotic genes, multidrug-resistant genes, and growth-promoting genes, while pro-apoptotic genes were down-regulated. Notably, expression of signal transducers and activators of transcription 1 (STAT1) was markedly repressed in the 5′UTR-expressing tumors, resulting in down-regulation of a STAT1-responsive cluster of genes (43 genes). As a result, the tumors did not respond to interferon (IFN)α therapy at all. We showed that stable silencing of endogenous vegf mRNA in HCT116 cells enhanced both STAT1 expression and IFNα responses.
These findings suggest that cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and imply that both vegf mRNA and its protein may synergistically promote the malignancy of tumor cells. Therefore, combination of anti-vegf transcript strategies, such as siRNA-based gene silencing, with anti-VEGF antibody treatment may improve anti-cancer therapies that target VEGF.
Shigetada Teshima-Kondo and colleagues find that cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and that vegf mRNA and its protein may synergistically promote the malignancy of tumor cells.
Editors' Summary
Normally, throughout life, cell division (which produces new cells) and cell death are carefully balanced to keep the body in good working order. But sometimes cells acquire changes (mutations) in their genetic material that allow them to divide uncontrollably to form cancers—disorganized masses of cells. When a cancer is small, it uses the body's existing blood supply to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs for its growth and survival. But, when it gets bigger, it has to develop its own blood supply. This process is called angiogenesis. It involves the release by the cancer cells of proteins called growth factors that bind to other proteins (receptors) on the surface of endothelial cells (the cells lining blood vessels). The receptors then send signals into the endothelial cells that tell them to make new blood vessels. One important angiogenic growth factor is “vascular endothelial growth factor” (VEGF). Tumors that make large amounts of VEGF tend to be more abnormal and more aggressive than those that make less VEGF. In addition, high levels of VEGF in the blood are often associated with poor responses to chemotherapy, drug regimens designed to kill cancer cells.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because VEGF is a key regulator of tumor development, several anti-VEGF therapies—drugs that target VEGF and its receptors—have been developed. These therapies strongly suppress the growth of tumor cells in the laboratory and in animals but, when used alone, are no better at increasing the survival times of patients with cancer than standard chemotherapy. Scientists are now looking for an explanation for this disappointing result. Like all proteins, cells make VEGF by “transcribing” its DNA blueprint into an mRNA copy (vegf mRNA), the coding region of which is “translated” into the VEGF protein. Other, “noncoding” regions of vegf mRNA control when and where VEGF is made. Scientists have recently discovered that the noncoding regions of some mRNAs suppress tumor development. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate whether vegf mRNA has an unrecognized function in tumor cells that could explain the disappointing clinical results of anti-VEGF therapeutics.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first used a technique called small interfering (si) RNA knockdown to stop VEGF expression in human colon cancer cells growing in dishes. siRNAs are short RNAs that bind to and destroy specific mRNAs in cells, thereby preventing the translation of those mRNAs into proteins. The treatment of human colon cancer cells with vegf-targeting siRNAs made the cells more sensitive to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis (a type of cell death). This sensitivity was only partly reversed by adding VEGF to the cells. By contrast, cancer cells engineered to make more vegf mRNA had increased resistance to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. Treatment of these cells with an antibody that inhibited VEGF function did not completely block this resistance. Together, these results suggest that both vegf mRNA and VEGF protein have anti-apoptotic effects. The researchers show that the anti-apoptotic activity of vegf mRNA requires a noncoding part of the mRNA called the 5′ UTR, and that whereas human colon cancer cells expressing this 5′ UTR form tumors in mice, cells expressing a mutated 5′ UTR do not. Finally, they report that the expression of several pro-apoptotic genes and of an anti-tumor pathway known as the interferon/STAT1 tumor suppression pathway is down-regulated in tumors that express the vegf 5′ UTR.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that some cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and are the first to show that a 5′UTR of mRNA can promote tumor growth. They indicate that VEGF and its mRNA work together to promote their development and to increase their resistance to chemotherapy drugs. They suggest that combining therapies that prevent the production of vegf mRNA (for example, siRNA-based gene silencing) with therapies that block the function of VEGF might improve survival times for patients whose tumors overexpress VEGF.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is discussed further in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Hughes and Jones
The US National Cancer Institute provides information about all aspects of cancer, including information on angiogenesis, and on bevacizumab, an anti-VEGF therapeutic (in English and Spanish)
CancerQuest, from Emory University, provides information on all aspects of cancer, including angiogenesis (in several languages)
Cancer Research UK also provides basic information about what causes cancers and how they develop, grow, and spread, including information about angiogenesis
Wikipedia has pages on VEGF and on siRNA (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2386836  PMID: 18494554
23.  Capture of MicroRNA–Bound mRNAs Identifies the Tumor Suppressor miR-34a as a Regulator of Growth Factor Signaling 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(11):e1002363.
A simple biochemical method to isolate mRNAs pulled down with a transfected, biotinylated microRNA was used to identify direct target genes of miR-34a, a tumor suppressor gene. The method reidentified most of the known miR-34a regulated genes expressed in K562 and HCT116 cancer cell lines. Transcripts for 982 genes were enriched in the pull-down with miR-34a in both cell lines. Despite this large number, validation experiments suggested that ∼90% of the genes identified in both cell lines can be directly regulated by miR-34a. Thus miR-34a is capable of regulating hundreds of genes. The transcripts pulled down with miR-34a were highly enriched for their roles in growth factor signaling and cell cycle progression. These genes form a dense network of interacting gene products that regulate multiple signal transduction pathways that orchestrate the proliferative response to external growth stimuli. Multiple candidate miR-34a–regulated genes participate in RAS-RAF-MAPK signaling. Ectopic miR-34a expression reduced basal ERK and AKT phosphorylation and enhanced sensitivity to serum growth factor withdrawal, while cells genetically deficient in miR-34a were less sensitive. Fourteen new direct targets of miR-34a were experimentally validated, including genes that participate in growth factor signaling (ARAF and PIK3R2) as well as genes that regulate cell cycle progression at various phases of the cell cycle (cyclins D3 and G2, MCM2 and MCM5, PLK1 and SMAD4). Thus miR-34a tempers the proliferative and pro-survival effect of growth factor stimulation by interfering with growth factor signal transduction and downstream pathways required for cell division.
Author Summary
microRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding to mRNAs bearing a partially complementary sequence. miRNAs decrease the stability or translation of mRNA targets, leading to reduced protein expression. Understanding the biological function of a miRNA requires identifying its targets. Here we developed a sensitive and specific biochemical method to identify candidate microRNA targets that are enriched by pull-down with a tagged, transfected microRNA mimic. The method was applied to miR-34a, a miRNA that inhibits cell proliferation. We found that miR-34a can potentially regulate hundreds of genes. Computational analysis of these genes suggested a novel function for miR-34a—suppression of the pro-proliferative response to diverse growth factors. This function complements the previously known role of miR-34a in blocking cell cycle progression. Thus, by reducing the expression of an extensive network of genes, miR-34a dampens growth factor signaling as well as its downstream consequences, promotion of cell survival and proliferation.
PMCID: PMC3213160  PMID: 22102825
24.  The role of microRNAs in hepatocyte nuclear factor-4alpha expression and transactivation 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2013;1829(5):436-442.
Hepatocyte nuclear factor (HNF)-4α is a key member of the transcription factor network regulating hepatocyte differentiation and function. Genetic and molecular evidence suggests that expression of HNF-4α is mainly regulated at the transcriptional level. Activation of HNF-4A gene involves the interaction of distinct sets of transcription factors and co-transcription factors within enhancer and promoter regions. Here we study the inhibitory effect of microRNAs (miRNA) on the 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR) of HNF-4A mRNA. The potential recognition elements of a set of miRNAs were identified utilizing bioinformatics analysis. The family members of miR-34 and miR-449, including miR-34a, miR-34c-5p and miR-449a, share the same target elements located at two distinct locations within the 3′-UTR of HNF-4A. The over-expression of miR-34a, miR-34c-5p or miR-449a in HepG2 cells led to a significant decrease in the activity of luciferase reporter carrying 3′-UTR of HNF-4A. The repressive effect on reporter activity was partially or fully eliminated when one or two of the binding site(s) for miR-34a/miR-34c-5p/miR-449a were deleted within the 3′-UTR. The protein level of HNF-4α was dramatically reduced by over-expression of miR-34a, miR-34c-5p and miR-449a, which correlates with a decrease in the binding activity of HNF-4α and transactivation of HNF-4α target genes. These results suggest that the recognition sites of miR-34a, miR-34c-5p and miR-449a within 3′-UTR of HNF-4A are functional. The mechanism of down-regulation of the binding activity and transactivation of HNF-4α by the miRNAs involves the decrease in HNF-4α protein level via miRNAs selectively targeting HNF-4A 3’-UTR, leading to the translational repression of HNF-4α expression.
PMCID: PMC3625485  PMID: 23298640
HNF-4; microRNA; 3′-untranslated region; DNA binding activity; HepG2
25.  Involvement of MicroRNAs in Regulation of Osteoblastic Differentiation in Mouse Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43800.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs), which regulate biological processes by annealing to the 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR) of mRNAs to reduce protein synthesis, have been the subject of recent attention as a key regulatory factor in cell differentiation. The effects of some miRNAs during osteoblastic differentiation have been investigated in mesenchymal stem cells, however they still remains to be determined in pluripotent stem cells.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) are potent activators of osteoblastic differentiation. In the present study, we profiled miRNAs during osteoblastic differentiation of mouse induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by BMP-4, in which expression of important osteoblastic markers such as Rux2, osterix, osteopontin, osteocalcin, PTHR1 and RANKL were significantly increased. A miRNA array analysis revealed that six miRNAs including miR-10a, miR-10b, miR-19b, miR-9-3p, miR-124a and miR-181a were significantly downregulated. Interestingly, miR-124a and miR-181a directly target the transcription factors Dlx5 and Msx2, both of which were increased by about 80-and 30-fold, respectively. In addition, transfection of miR-124a and miR-181a into mouse osteo-progenitor MC3T3-E1 cells significantly reduced expression of Dlx5, Runx2, osteocalcin and ALP, and Msx2 and osteocalcin, respectively. Finally, transfection of the anti-miRNAs of these six miRNAs, which are predicted to target Dlx5 and Msx2, into mouse iPS cells resulted in a significant increase in several osteoblastic differentiation markers such as Rux2, Msx2 and osteopontin.
In the present study, we demonstrate that six miRNAs including miR-10a, miR-10b, miR-19b, miR-9-3p, miR-124a and miR-181a miRNAs, especially miR-124a and miR-181a, are important regulatory factors in osteoblastic differentiation of mouse iPS cells.
PMCID: PMC3427148  PMID: 22937097

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