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1.  MiRNA-107 inhibits proliferation and migration by targeting CDK8 in breast cancer 
Background: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs (18-25 nucleotides) that post-transcriptionally modulate gene expression by negatively regulating the stability or translational efficiency of their target mRNAs. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression pattern of microRNA-107 (miR-107) in human breast cancer, and its potential role in disease pathogenesis. Methods: Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was performed to determine the expression level of miR-107 in 30 breast cancer specimens and adjacent normal breast tissues. MTT and colony formation assays, transwell and wound healing test, cell cycle assays were conducted to explore the potential function of miR-107 in human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Luciferase reporter assays were employed to validate regulation of a putative target of miR-107. The effect of modulating miR-107 on endogenous levels of this target were subsequently confirmed via Western blotting. Results: miR-107 expression was relatively decreased in breast cancer specimens compared with adjacent normal tissues (P<0.01). Overexpression of miR-107 suppressed MDA-MB-231 cell proliferation and migration, meanwhile the cells were arrested at G0/G1 phase. Luciferase assays using a reporter carrying a putative miR-107 target site in the 3’, untranslated region (3’-UTR) of CDK8 revealed that miR-107 directly targets CDK8. Overexpression of miR-107 led to downregulation of CDK8 at the mRNA and protein level, as assessed by Western blotting. Conclusions: miR-107 may play an important role in breast cancer progression, which might negatively regulate the expression of CDK8 and inhibit the proliferation and migration of MDA-MB-231 cell line.
PMCID: PMC3902238  PMID: 24482686
Breast cancer; miR-107; CDK8
2.  MiRNA-497 regulates cell growth and invasion by targeting cyclin E1 in breast cancer 
MicroRNAs are a class of endogenous single strand non-coding RNAs that are involved in many important physiological and pathological processes. The purpose of this study was to examine the expression levels of miR-497 in human breast cancer and its function in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells.
Quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to measure the expression levels of miR-497 in 40 breast cancer specimens and adjacent normal breast tissues. MTT assays, colony formation assays, wound healing assays, transwell assays and cell cycle assays were used to explore the potential function of miR-497 in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Dual-luciferase reporter assays were performed to analyze the regulation of putative target of miR-497, and western blot assays were used to validate the dual-luciferase results.
The expression of miR-497 in breast cancer specimens was lower than adjacent normal tissues (P < 0.05). Overexpression of miR-497 inhibited cellular growth, suppressed cellular migration and invasion, and caused a G1 arrest. Dual-luciferase reporter assays showed that miR-497 binds the 3′-untranslated region (3′-UTR) of cyclin E1, suggesting that cyclin E1 is a direct target of miR-497. Western blot assays confirmed that overexpression of miR-497 reduced cyclin E1 protein levels.
MiR-497 may act as a tumor suppressor gene in breast cancer. Inhibited cellular growth, suppressed cellular migration and invasion, and G1 cell cycle arrest were observed upon overexpression of miR-497 in cells, possibly by targeting cyclin E1. These results indicate miR-497 could be considered a therapeutic target for the development of treatment for breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3853026  PMID: 24112607
MiR-497; Breast cancer; Cyclin E1
3.  miR-142 regulates the tumorigenicity of human breast cancer stem cells through the canonical WNT signaling pathway 
eLife  2014;3:e01977.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators of stem and progenitor cell functions. We previously reported that miR-142 and miR-150 are upregulated in human breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs) as compared to the non-tumorigenic breast cancer cells. In this study, we report that miR-142 efficiently recruits the APC mRNA to an RNA-induced silencing complex, activates the canonical WNT signaling pathway in an APC-suppression dependent manner, and activates the expression of miR-150. Enforced expression of miR-142 or miR-150 in normal mouse mammary stem cells resulted in the regeneration of hyperproliferative mammary glands in vivo. Knockdown of endogenous miR-142 effectively suppressed organoid formation by BCSCs and slowed tumor growth initiated by human BCSCs in vivo. These results suggest that in some tumors, miR-142 regulates the properties of BCSCs at least in part by activating the WNT signaling pathway and miR-150 expression.
eLife digest
Messenger RNA molecules take the information encoded in a gene's DNA sequence and turn it into instructions for building a protein. However, if certain smaller molecules of RNA—called microRNAs—bind to a messenger RNA molecule, they ‘silence’ it, which prevents the information in the messenger RNA from being translated to make a protein.
Despite their small size, microRNAs are very powerful. These molecules are able to simultaneously inhibit the translation of hundreds of messenger RNAs and perform many roles, including controlling cell growth and maintaining populations of stem cells. Furthermore, microRNAs have been linked to different aspects of the growth of cancerous cells. Certain microRNAs appear to suppress tumors by regulating the growth of the stem cells found there, while others appear to be ‘hyperactive’ in cancers—including breast cancer, colon cancer, and blood cancer.
In 2009, researchers compared the amount of microRNA in breast cancer stem cells that are highly capable of forming tumors with the amount in other cancer cells within the same tumor. Amongst other differences, two microRNAs (called miR-142 and miR-150) were found to be hyperactive in human breast cancer stem cells. One of them, miR-142, is known to target a gene called APC that inhibits the renewal of normal stem cells. Mutations in the APC gene have been linked to colon cancer, and scientists have suggested that the mutations inactivate APC in cancer cells to promote unregulated cell growth. Breast tumors rarely have mutations in the APC gene, but Isobe et al. wondered whether microRNAs that target this gene might also promote the growth of these tumor cells.
Isobe et al.—including several of the researchers involved in the 2009 work—show that miR-142 does target the APC gene in human breast cancer stem cells, and silences it. With the gene silenced, a cancer-promoting pathway turns on and more miR-150 is made. Increasing the amount of either miR-142 or miR-150 causes excessive cell growth in breast tissue and can form abnormal breast tissue in mice. Reducing the amount of miR-142 in human breast cancer stem cells slows the growth of breast tumors.
Although they only make up a small population of human breast cancer cells, focusing on breast cancer stem cells could uncover the cancer-promoting pathways that are activated in human breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC4235011  PMID: 25406066
breast cancer; cancer stem cells; miR-142; miR-150; APC; WNT signaling pathway; human; mouse
4.  Microvesicles secreted by macrophages shuttle invasion-potentiating microRNAs into breast cancer cells 
Molecular Cancer  2011;10:117.
Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) are alternatively activated cells induced by interleukin-4 (IL-4)-releasing CD4+ T cells. TAMs promote breast cancer invasion and metastasis; however, the mechanisms underlying these interactions between macrophages and tumor cells that lead to cancer metastasis remain elusive. Previous studies have found microRNAs (miRNAs) circulating in the peripheral blood and have identified microvesicles, or exosomes, as mediators of cell-cell communication. Therefore, one alternative mechanism for the promotion of breast cancer cell invasion by TAMs may be through macrophage-secreted exosomes, which would deliver invasion-potentiating miRNAs to breast cancer cells.
We utilized a co-culture system with IL-4-activated macrophages and breast cancer cells to verify that miRNAs are transported from macrophages to breast cancer cells. The shuttling of fluorescently-labeled exogenous miRNAs from IL-4-activated macrophages to co-cultivated breast cancer cells without direct cell-cell contact was observed. miR-223, a miRNA specific for IL-4-activated macrophages, was detected within the exosomes released by macrophages and was significantly elevated in the co-cultivated SKBR3 and MDA-MB-231 cells. The invasiveness of the co-cultivated breast cancer cells decreased when the IL-4-activated macrophages were treated with a miR-223 antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) that would inhibit miR-223 expression. Furthermore, results from a functional assay revealed that miR-223 promoted the invasion of breast cancer cells via the Mef2c-β-catenin pathway.
We conclude that macrophages regulate the invasiveness of breast cancer cells through exosome-mediated delivery of oncogenic miRNAs. Our data provide insight into the mechanisms underlying the metastasis-promoting interactions between macrophages and breast cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3190352  PMID: 21939504
5.  Exosome-mediated transfer of miR-10b promotes cell invasion in breast cancer 
Molecular Cancer  2014;13(1):256.
Exosomes are 30-100 nm membrane vesicles of endocytic origin, mediating diverse biological functions including tumor cell invasion, cell-cell communication and antigen presentation through transfer of proteins, mRNAs and microRNAs. Recent evidence suggests that microRNAs can be released through ceramide-dependent secretory machinery regulated by neutral sphingomyelinase 2 (nSMase2) enzyme encoded by the smpd3 gene that triggers exosome secretion. However, whether exosome-mediated microRNA transfer plays any role in cell invasion remains poorly understood. Thus, the aim of this study was to identify the exosomal microRNAs involved in breast cancer invasion.
The expression level of endogenous and exosomal miRNAs were examined by real time PCR and the expression level of target proteins were detected by western blot. Scanning electron and confocal microscopy were used to characterize exosomes and to study its uptake and transfer. Luciferase reporter plasmids and its mutant were used to confirm direct targeting. Furthermore, the functional significance of exosomal miR-10b was estimated by invasion assay.
In this study, we demonstrate that microRNA carrying exosomes can be transferred among different cell lines through direct uptake. miR-10b is highly expressed in metastatic breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells as compared to non-metastatic breast cancer cells or non-malignant breast cells; it is actively secreted into medium via exosomes. In particular, nSMase2 or ceramide promotes the exosome-mediated miR-10b secretion whereas ceramide inhibitor suppresses this secretion. Moreover, upon uptake, miR-10b can suppress the protein level of its target genes such as HOXD10 and KLF4, indicating its functional significance. Finally, treatment with exosomes derived from MDA-MB-231 cells could induce the invasion ability of non-malignant HMLE cells.
Together, our results suggest that a set of specific microRNAs may play an important role in modulating tumor microenvironment through exosomes. Thus, a better understanding of this process may aid in the development of novel therapeutic agents.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1476-4598-13-256) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4258287  PMID: 25428807
Exosome; microRNA; miR-10b; Invasion
6.  Annexin-A1 Regulates MicroRNA-26b* and MicroRNA-562 to Directly Target NF-κB and Angiogenesis in Breast Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114507.
Annexin 1 (ANXA1) is an endogenous anti-inflammatory protein implicated in cancer. ANXA1 was previously shown to be regulated by hsa-miR-196a. However, whether ANXA1 itself regulates microRNA (miR) expression is unknown. Therefore, we investigated the regulation of miR by ANXA1 in MCF7 breast cancer cells. MCF7-EV (Empty vector) and MCF7-V5 (ANXA1-V5 expressing cells) were subjected to a miR microarray. Microarray analysis revealed a number of miRNAs which were dysregulated in MCF7-V5 cells. 2 novel miRNAs (miR562 and miR26b*) were validated, cloned and functionally characterized. As ANXA1 constitutively activates NF-κB activity to modulate breast cancer metastasis, we found that miR26b* and miR562 directly targeted the canonical NF-κB pathway by targeting the 3′ UTR and inhibiting expression of Rel A (p65) and NF-κB1 (p105) respectively. MiR562 inhibited wound healing, which was reversed when ANXA1 was overexpressed. Overexpression of either miR562 or miR26b* in MCF-7 cells enhanced endothelial tube formation when cocultured with human umbilical cord endothelial cells while conversely, treatment of MCF7 cells with either anti-miR562 or anti-miR26b* inhibited endothelial tube formation after co-culture. Further analysis of miR562 revealed that miR562-transfected cell conditioned media enhances endothelial cell tube formation, indicating that miR562 increased angiogenic secreted factors from MCF-7 breast tumor cells. TNFα was increased upon overexpression of miR562, which was reversed when ANXA1 was co-transfected In conclusion, this data suggests that ANXA1-regulated miR26b* and miR562 may play a role in wound healing and tumor-induced endothelial cell tube formation by targeting NF-κB expression and point towards a potential therapeutic target for breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4275173  PMID: 25536365
7.  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
8.  MiR-124 targets Slug to regulate epithelial–mesenchymal transition and metastasis of breast cancer  
Carcinogenesis  2012;34(3):713-722.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs or miR) have been integrated into tumorigenic programs as either oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes. The miR-124 was reported to be attenuated in several tumors, such as glioma, medulloblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. However, its role in cancer remains greatly elusive. In this study, we show that the miR-124 expression is significantly suppressed in human breast cancer specimens, which is reversely correlated to histological grade of the cancer. More intriguingly, ectopic expression of miR-124 in aggressive breast cancer cell lines MDA-MB-231 and BT-549 strongly inhibits cell motility and invasive capacity, as well as the epithelial–mesenchymal transition process. Also, lentivirus-delivered miR-124 endows MDA-MB-231 cells with the ability to suppress cell colony formation in vitro and pulmonary metastasis in vivo. Further studies have identified the E-cadherin transcription repressor Slug as a direct target gene of miR-124; its downregulation by miR-124 increases the expression of E-cadherin, a hallmark of epithelial cells and a repressor of cell invasion and metastasis. Moreover, knockdown of Slug notably impairs the motility of MDA-MB-231 cells, whereas re-expression of Slug abrogates the reduction of motility and invasion ability induced by miR-124 in MDA-MB-231 cells. These findings highlight an important role for miR-124 in the regulation of invasive and metastatic potential of breast cancer and suggest a potential application of miR-124 in cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3581604  PMID: 23250910
9.  hsa-mir-30c promotes the invasive phenotype of metastatic breast cancer cells by targeting NOV/CCN3 
For treatment and prevention of metastatic disease, one of the premier challenges is the identification of pathways and proteins to target for clinical intervention. Micro RNAs (miRNAs) are short, non-coding RNAs, which regulate cellular activities by either mRNA degradation or translational inhibition. Our studies focused on the invasive properties of hsa-mir30c based on its high expression in MDA-MB-231 metastatic cells and our bioinformatic analysis of the Cancer Genome Atlas that identified aberrant hsa-mir-30c to be associated with poor survival.
Contributions of hsa-mir-30c to breast cancer cell invasion were examined by Matrigel invasion transwell assays following modulation of hsa-mir-30c or hsa-mir-30c* levels in MDA-MB-231 cells. hsa-mir-30c in silico predicted targets linked to cell invasion were screened for targeting by hsa-mir-30c in metastatic breast cancer cells by RT-qPCR. The contribution to invasion by a target of hsa-mir-30c, Nephroblastoma overexpressed (NOV), was characterized by siRNA and invasion assays. Significant effects were determined using Student’s T-tests with Welch’s correction for unequal variance.
MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells were used as models of poorly invasive and late-stage metastatic disease, respectively. By modulating the levels of hsa-mir-30c in these cells, we observed concomitant changes in breast cancer cell invasiveness. From predicted targets of hsa-mir-30c that were related to cellular migration and invasion, NOV/CCN3 was identified as a novel target of hsa-mir-30c. Depleting NOV by siRNA caused a significant increase in the invasiveness of MDA-MB-231 cells is a regulatory protein associated with the extracellular matrix.
NOV/CCN3 expression, which protects cells from invasion, is known in patient tumors to inversely correlate with advanced breast cancer and metastasis. This study has identified a novel target of hsa-mir-30c, NOV, which is an inhibitor of the invasiveness of metastatic breast cancer cells. Thus, hsa-mir-30c-mediated inhibition of NOV levels promotes the invasive phenotype of MDA-MB-231 cells and significantly, the miR-30/NOV pathways is independent of RUNX2, a known target of hsa-mir-30c that promotes osteolytic disease in metastatic breast cancer cells. Our findings allow for mechanistic insight into the clinical observation of poor survival of patients with elevated hsa-mir-30c levels, which can be considered for miRNA-based translational studies.
PMCID: PMC4129468  PMID: 25120384
miRNA; Hsa-mir-30c breast cancer; Invasion; Metastasis; NOV/CCN3
10.  MiRNA-26b inhibits proliferation by targeting PTGS2 in breast cancer 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs (20–24 nucleotides) that post-transcriptionally modulate gene expression by negatively regulating the stability or translational efficiency of their target mRNAs. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression pattern of microRNA-26b (miR-26b) in human breast cancer, and its potential role in disease pathogenesis.
Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was performed to determine the expression level of miR-26b in 38 breast cancer specimens and adjacent normal breast tissues. MTT assays were conducted to explore the impact of miR-26b overexpression on the proliferation of human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Luciferase reporter assays were employed to validate regulation of a putative target of miR-26b. The effect of modulating miR-26b on endogenous levels of this target were subsequently confirmed via qRT-PCR and Western blot.
MiR-26b expression was relatively decreased in breast cancer specimens compared with adjacent normal tissues (P<0.01). Overexpression of miR-26b suppressed MDA-MB-231 cell growth. Luciferase assays using a reporter carrying a putative miR-26b target site in the 3' untranslated region of PTGS2 revealed that miR-26b directly targets PTGS2. Overexpression of miR-26b led to downregulation of PTGS2 at the mRNA and protein level, as assessed by qRT-PCR and Western blot. Targeted knockdown of PTGS2 by siRNA significantly inhibited the proliferation of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells.
MiR-26b may act as a tumor suppressor in breast cancer. The overexpression of miR-26b inhibits cellular growth by targeting PTGS2, suggesting its use as a potential therapeutic target for breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3599806  PMID: 23374284
MiR-26b; Proliferation; PTGS2; Breast cancer
11.  Knockdown of miR-21 in human breast cancer cell lines inhibits proliferation, in vitro migration and in vivo tumor growth 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs (20 to 24 nucleotides) that post-transcriptionally modulate gene expression. A key oncomir in carcinogenesis is miR-21, which is consistently up-regulated in a wide range of cancers. However, few functional studies are available for miR-21, and few targets have been identified. In this study, we explored the role of miR-21 in human breast cancer cells and tissues, and searched for miR-21 targets.
We used in vitro and in vivo assays to explore the role of miR-21 in the malignant progression of human breast cancer, using miR-21 knockdown. Using LNA silencing combined to microarray technology and target prediction, we screened for potential targets of miR-21 and validated direct targets by using luciferase reporter assay and Western blot. Two candidate target genes (EIF4A2 and ANKRD46) were selected for analysis of correlation with clinicopathological characteristics and prognosis using immunohistochemistry on cancer tissue microrrays.
Anti-miR-21 inhibited growth and migration of MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells in vitro, and tumor growth in nude mice. Knockdown of miR-21 significantly increased the expression of ANKRD46 at both mRNA and protein levels. Luciferase assays using a reporter carrying a putative target site in the 3' untranslated region of ANKRD46 revealed that miR-21 directly targeted ANKRD46. miR-21 and EIF4A2 protein were inversely expressed in breast cancers (rs = -0.283, P = 0.005, Spearman's correlation analysis).
Knockdown of miR-21 in MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells inhibits in vitro and in vivo growth as well as in vitro migration. ANKRD46 is newly identified as a direct target of miR-21 in BC. These results suggest that inhibitory strategies against miR-21 using peptide nucleic acids (PNAs)-antimiR-21 may provide potential therapeutic applications in breast cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3109565  PMID: 21219636
12.  The efficacy of nuclease-resistant Chol-siRNA in primary breast tumors following complexation with PLL-PEG(5K) 
Biomaterials  2013;34(20):4839-4848.
Modifying the sense strand of nuclease-resistant siRNA with 3’-cholesterol (Chol-*siRNA) increases mRNA suppression after i.v. administration but with relatively low efficacy. We previously found evidence in vitro that suggests complexation of Chol-siRNA with PLL-PEG(5K), a block copolymer of poly-L-lysine and 5 kDa polyethylene glycol, may increase the efficacy of Chol-siRNA in vivo in a PLL block length-dependent manner. In this study, the extent that polyplexes of PLL10-PEG(5K), PLL30-PEG(5K), and PLL50-PEG(5K) protect complexed Chol-siRNA in high concentrations of murine serum and affect the activity of Chol-*siRNA in murine 4T1 breast tumor epithelial cells in vitro and in primary orthotopic tumors of 4T1 was compared. PLL-PEG(5K) required 3’-Chol to protect full-length siRNA from nuclease degradation in 90% (v/v) murine serum and protection was increased by increasing PLL block length and nuclease resistance of Chol-siRNA. Polyplexes of Chol-*siLuc suppressed stably expressed luciferase in 4T1-Luc cells to different levels in vitro where PLL30>PLL50>PLL10. In contrast, only polyplexes of Chol-*siLuc and PLL30-PEG(5K) or PLL50-PEG(5K) suppressed high levels of luciferase in primary orthotopic tumors of 4T1-Luc after i.v. administration, whereas polyplexes of Chol-*siLuc and PLL10-PEG(5K), inactive Chol-*siCtrl polyplexes of PLL-PEG(5K), or Chol-*siLuc alone had no detectable activity. As a whole, these results indicate that polyplexes of PLL-PEG(5K) increase the efficacy of nuclease-resistant Chol-siRNA in primary breast tumors after i.v. administration in a PLL block length-dependent manner. Thus, complexation of Chol-siRNA with PLL-PEG(5K) may be a promising approach to increase the efficacy of Chol-siRNA in a wide range of primary tumors, metastases, and other tissues but likely requires a PLL block length that balances polymer-related adverse effects, Chol-siRNA bioavailability, and subsequent activity in the target cell.
PMCID: PMC3649532  PMID: 23557861
siRNA delivery; drug delivery; RNAi; RNA interference; tumor delivery; systemic delivery; gene therapy; siRNA polyplexes; polymer siRNA complexes
13.  BSA Nanoparticles for siRNA Delivery: Coating Effects on Nanoparticle Properties, Plasma Protein Adsorption, and In Vitro siRNA Delivery 
Developing vehicles for the delivery of therapeutic molecules, like siRNA, is an area of active research. Nanoparticles composed of bovine serum albumin, stabilized via the adsorption of poly-L-lysine (PLL), have been shown to be potentially inert drug-delivery vehicles. With the primary goal of reducing nonspecific protein adsorption, the effect of using comb-type structures of poly(ethylene glycol) (1 kDa, PEG) units conjugated to PLL (4.2 and 24 kDa) on BSA-NP properties, apparent siRNA release rate, cell viability, and cell uptake were evaluated. PEGylated PLL coatings resulted in NPs with ζ-potentials close to neutral. Incubation with platelet-poor plasma showed the composition of the adsorbed proteome was similar for all systems. siRNA was effectively encapsulated and released in a sustained manner from all NPs. With 4.2 kDa PLL, cellular uptake was not affected by the presence of PEG, but PEG coating inhibited uptake with 24 kDa PLL NPs. Moreover, 24 kDa PLL systems were cytotoxic and this cytotoxicity was diminished upon PEG incorporation. The overall results identified a BSA-NP coating structure that provided effective siRNA encapsulation while reducing ζ-potential, protein adsorption, and cytotoxicity, necessary attributes for in vivo application of drug-delivery vehicles.
PMCID: PMC3420107  PMID: 22919392
14.  Correlation between Slug transcription factor and miR-221 in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:445.
Breast cancer and its metastatic progression is mainly directed by epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), a phenomenon supported by specific transcription factors and miRNAs.
In order to investigate a possible correlation between Slug transcription factor and miR-221, we performed Slug gene silencing in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and evaluated the expression of genes involved in supporting the breast cancer phenotype, using qRT-PCR and Western blot analysis. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and wound healing assays were employed to determine a functional link between these two molecules.
We showed that Slug silencing significantly decreased the level of miR-221 and vimentin, reactivated Estrogen Receptor α and increased E-cadherin and TRPS1 expression. We demonstrated that miR-221 is a Slug target gene, and identified a specific region of miR-221 promoter that is transcriptionally active and binds the transcription factor Slug “in vivo”. In addition, we showed that in Slug-silenced cells, wich retained residual miR-221 (about 38%), cell migration was strongly inhibited. Cell migration was inhibited, but to a less degree, following complete knockdown of miR-221 expression by transfection with antagomiR-221.
We report for the first time evidence of a correlation between Slug transcription factor and miR-221 in breast cancer cells. These studies suggest that miR-221 expression is, in part, dependent on Slug in breast cancer cells, and that Slug plays a more important role than miR-221 in cell migration and invasion.
PMCID: PMC3534407  PMID: 23031797
Slug; miR-221; Epithelial mesenchymal transition; Breast cancer
15.  Epigenetic Silencing of miR-203 Upregulates SNAI2 and Contributes to the Invasiveness of Malignant Breast Cancer Cells 
Genes & Cancer  2011;2(8):782-791.
It has become increasingly clear that microRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in tumorigenesis and metastasis. Recently, miR-203 was reported as a suppressor microRNA often silenced in different malignancies including hepatocellular carcinoma, prostate cancer, oral cancer, and hematopoietic malignancy, but little is known about its potential role in breast carcinogenesis. In this study, we found that in breast cancer, miR-203 was upregulated in primary tumors and some nonmetastatic cell lines but was significantly downregulated in metastatic cell lines including BT549, Hs578T, and MDA-MB-231, as measured by regular and real-time PCR. Downregulation of miR-203 in metastatic breast cancer cells appeared to be caused by hypermethylation of its promoter. Functionally, ectopic expression of miR-203 in BT549 and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell lines caused cell cycle arrest and apoptosis and inhibited cell invasion and migration in vitro. Bioinformatic analysis predicted the snail homolog 2 (SNAI2 or SLUG), a transcription factor that promotes cell invasion and tumor metastasis, as a target of miR-203, and the prediction was validated by expression analysis and luciferase reporter assay of the 3′ untranslated region of SNAI2 that contains the miR-203 target sequences. These results suggest that in malignant breast cancer cells, miR-203 is epigenetically silenced, and the silencing promotes tumor cell growth and invasion at least in part by upregulating the SNAI2 transcription factor.
PMCID: PMC3278899  PMID: 22393463
breast cancer; invasion; migration; miR-203; SNAI2
16.  Large-scale screening identifies a novel microRNA, miR-15a-3p, which induces apoptosis in human cancer cell lines 
RNA Biology  2013;10(2):287-300.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been found to be involved in cancer initiation, progression and metastasis and, as such, have been suggested as tools for cancer detection and therapy. In this work, a large-scale screening of the complete miRNA mimics library demonstrated that hsa-miR-15a-3p had a pro-apoptotic role in the following human cancer cells: HeLa, AsPc-1, MDA-MB-231, KB3, ME180, HCT-116 and A549. MiR-15a-3p is a novel member of the pro-apoptotic miRNA cluster, miR-15a/16, which was found to activate Caspase-3/7 and to cause viability loss in B/CMBA.Ov cells during preliminary screening. Subsequent microarrays and bioinformatics analyses identified the following four anti-apoptotic genes: bcl2l1, naip5, fgfr2 and mybl2 as possible targets for the mmu-miR-15a-3p in B/CMBA.Ov cells. Follow-up studies confirmed the pro-apoptotic role of hsa-miR-15a-3p in human cells by its ability to activate Caspase-3/7, to reduce cell viability and to inhibit the expression of bcl2l1 (bcl-xL) in HeLa and AsPc-1 cells. MiR-15-3p was also found to reduce viability in HEK293, MDA-MB-231, KB3, ME180, HCT-116 and A549 cell lines and, therefore, may be considered for apoptosis modulating therapies in cancers associated with high Bcl-xL expression (cervical, pancreatic, breast, lung and colorectal carcinomas). The capability of hsa-miR-15a-3p to induce apoptosis in these carcinomas may be dependent on the levels of Bcl-xL expression. The use of endogenous inhibitors of bcl-xL and other anti-apoptotic genes such as hsa-miR-15a-3p may provide improved options for apoptosis-modulating therapies in cancer treatment compared with the use of artificial antisense oligonucleotides.
PMCID: PMC3594287  PMID: 23353574
Apoptosis; BCL-XL; Caspase; cancer cells; microRNA
17.  Loss of post-transcriptional regulation of DNMT3b by microRNAs: A possible molecular mechanism for the hypermethylation defect observed in a subset of breast cancer cell lines 
International Journal of Oncology  2012;41(2):721-732.
A hypermethylation defect associated with DNMT hyperactivity and DNMT3b overexpression characterizes a subset of breast cancers and breast cancer cell lines. We analyzed breast cancer cell lines for differential expression of regulatory miRs to determine if loss of miR-mediated post-transcriptional regulation of DNMT3b represents the molecular mechanism that governs the overexpression of DNMT3b that drives the hypermethylation defect in breast cancer. MicroRNAs (miRs) that regulate (miR-29a, miR-29b, miR-29c, miR-148a, miR-148b) or are predicted (miR-26a, miR-26b, miR-203, miR-222) to regulate DNMT3b were examined among 10 hypermethylator and 6 non-hypermethylator breast cancer cell lines. Hypermethylator cell lines express diminished levels of miR-29c, miR-148a, miR-148b, miR-26a, miR-26b, and miR-203 compared to non-hypermethylator cell lines. miR expression patterns correlate inversely with methylation-sensitive gene expression (r=−0.66, p=0.0056) and directly with the methylation status of these genes (r=0.72, p=0.002). To determine the mechanistic role of specific miRs in the dysregulation of DNMT3b among breast cancer cell lines, miR levels were modulated by transfection of pre-miR precursors for miR-148b, miR-26b, and miR-29c into hypermethylator cell lines (Hs578T, HCC1937, SUM185) and transfection of antagomirs directed against miR-148b, miR-26b, and miR-29c into non-hypermethylator cell lines (BT20, MDA-MB-415, MDA-MB-468). Antagomir-mediated knock-down of miR-148b, miR-29c, and miR-26b significantly increased DNMT3b mRNA in non-hypermethylator cell lines, and re-expression of miR-148b, miR-29c, and miR-26b following transfection of pre-miR precursors significantly reduced DNMT3b mRNA in hypermethylator cell lines. These findings strongly suggest that: i) post-transcriptional regulation of DNMT3b is combinatorial, ii) diminished expression of regulatory miRs contributes to DNMT3b overexpression, iii) re-expression of regulatory miRs reduces DNMT3b mRNA levels in hypermethylator breast cancer cell lines, and iv) down-regulation of regulatory miRs increases DNMT3b mRNA levels in non-hypermethylator breast cancer cell lines. In conlcusion, the molecular mechanism governing the DNMT3b-mediated hypermethylation defect in breast cancer cell lines involves the loss of post-transcriptional regulation of DNMT3b by regulatory miRs.
PMCID: PMC3982716  PMID: 22664488
hypermethylator phenotype; DNMT3b; microRNAs; breast cancer
18.  Identification of MicroRNAs Inhibiting TGF-β-Induced IL-11 Production in Bone Metastatic Breast Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37361.
Development of bone metastases is dependent on the cancer cell-bone cell interactions in the bone microenvironment. Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) is released from bone during osteoclastic bone resorption and induces production of osteolytic factors, such as interleukin 11 (IL-11), in breast cancer cells. IL-11 in turn increases osteolysis by stimulating osteoclast function, launching a vicious cycle of cancer growth and bone destruction. We aimed to identify and functionally characterize microRNAs (miRNAs) that mediate the bone metastatic process, focusing on miRNAs that regulate the TGF-β induction of IL-11. First, we profiled the expression of 455 miRNAs in a highly bone metastatic MDA-MB-231(SA) variant as compared to the parental MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line and found 16 miRNAs (3.5%) having a >3-fold expression difference between the two cell types. We then applied a cell-based overexpression screen with Pre-miRNA constructs to functionally identify miRNAs regulating TGF-β-induced IL-11 production. This analysis pinpointed miR-204, miR-211, and miR-379 as such key regulators. These miRNAs were shown to directly target IL11 by binding to its 3′ UTR. MiR-379 also inhibited Smad2/3/4-mediated transcriptional activity. Gene expression analysis of miR-204 and miR-379-transfected cells indicated that these miRNAs downregulated the expression of several genes involved in TGF-β signaling, including prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (PTGS2). In addition, there was a significant correlation between the genes downregulated by miR-379 and a set of genes upregulated in basal subtype of breast cancer. Taken together, the functional evidence and clinical correlations imply novel mechanistic links between miRNAs and the key steps in the bone metastatic process in breast cancer, with potential clinical relevance.
PMCID: PMC3357420  PMID: 22629385
19.  Trastuzumab Produces Therapeutic Actions by Upregulating miR-26a and miR-30b in Breast Cancer Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31422.
Trastuzumab has been used for the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer (BC). However, a subset of BC patients exhibited resistance to trastuzumab therapy. Thus, clarifying the molecular mechanism of trastuzumab treatment will be beneficial to improve the treatment of HER2-positive BC patients. In this study, we identified trastuzumab-responsive microRNAs that are involved in the therapeutic effects of trastuzumab.
Methods and Results
RNA samples were obtained from HER2-positive (SKBR3 and BT474) and HER2-negetive (MCF7 and MDA-MB-231) cells with and without trastuzumab treatment for 6 days. Next, we conducted a microRNA profiling analysis using these samples to screen those microRNAs that were up- or down-regulated only in HER2-positive cells. This analysis identified miR-26a and miR-30b as trastuzumab-inducible microRNAs. Transfecting miR-26a and miR-30b induced cell growth suppression in the BC cells by 40% and 32%, respectively. A cell cycle analysis showed that these microRNAs induced G1 arrest in HER2-positive BC cells as trastuzumab did. An Annexin-V assay revealed that miR-26a but not miR-30b induced apoptosis in HER2-positive BC cells. Using the prediction algorithms for microRNA targets, we identified cyclin E2 (CCNE2) as a target gene of miR-30b. A luciferase-based reporter assay demonstrated that miR-30b post-transcriptionally reduced 27% (p = 0.005) of the gene expression by interacting with two binding sites in the 3′-UTR of CCNE2.
In BC cells, trastuzumab modulated the expression of a subset of microRNAs, including miR-26a and miR-30b. The upregulation of miR-30b by trastuzumab may play a biological role in trastuzumab-induced cell growth inhibition by targeting CCNE2.
PMCID: PMC3288043  PMID: 22384020
20.  Estrogen Mediated-Activation of miR-191/425 Cluster Modulates Tumorigenicity of Breast Cancer Cells Depending on Estrogen Receptor Status 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(3):e1003311.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs), single-stranded non-coding RNAs, influence myriad biological processes that can contribute to cancer. Although tumor-suppressive and oncogenic functions have been characterized for some miRNAs, the majority of microRNAs have not been investigated for their ability to promote and modulate tumorigenesis. Here, we established that the miR-191/425 cluster is transcriptionally dependent on the host gene, DALRD3, and that the hormone 17β-estradiol (estrogen or E2) controls expression of both miR-191/425 and DALRD3. MiR-191/425 locus characterization revealed that the recruitment of estrogen receptor α (ERα) to the regulatory region of the miR-191/425-DALRD3 unit resulted in the accumulation of miR-191 and miR-425 and subsequent decrease in DALRD3 expression levels. We demonstrated that miR-191 protects ERα positive breast cancer cells from hormone starvation-induced apoptosis through the suppression of tumor-suppressor EGR1. Furthermore, enforced expression of the miR-191/425 cluster in aggressive breast cancer cells altered global gene expression profiles and enabled us to identify important tumor promoting genes, including SATB1, CCND2, and FSCN1, as targets of miR-191 and miR-425. Finally, in vitro and in vivo experiments demonstrated that miR-191 and miR-425 reduced proliferation, impaired tumorigenesis and metastasis, and increased expression of epithelial markers in aggressive breast cancer cells. Our data provide compelling evidence for the transcriptional regulation of the miR-191/425 cluster and for its context-specific biological determinants in breast cancers. Importantly, we demonstrated that the miR-191/425 cluster, by reducing the expression of an extensive network of genes, has a fundamental impact on cancer initiation and progression of breast cancer cells.
Author Summary
MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that act as posttranscriptional repressors of gene expression. A pivotal role for miRNAs in all the molecular processes driving initiation and progression of various malignancies, including breast cancer, has been described. Divergent miRNA expression between normal and neoplastic breast tissues has been demonstrated, as well as differential miRNA expression among the molecular subtypes of breast cancer. Over half of all breast cancers overexpress ERα, and several studies have shown that miRNA expression is controlled by ERα. We assessed the global change in microRNA expression after estrogen starvation and stimulation in breast cancer cells and identified that miR-191/425 and the host gene DALRD3 are positively associated to ERα-positive tumors. We demonstrated that ERα regulates the miR-191/425 cluster and verified the existence of a transcriptional network that allows a dual effect of estrogen on miR-191/425 and their host gene. We show that estrogen induction of miR-191/425 supports in vitro and in vivo the estrogen-dependent proliferation of ERα positive breast cancer cells. On the contrary, miR-191/425 cluster reprograms gene expression to impair tumorigenicity and metastatic potential of highly aggressive ERα negative breast cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3591271  PMID: 23505378
21.  miR-146a promotes the initiation and progression of melanoma by activating Notch signaling 
eLife  2014;3:e01460.
Oncogenic mutations in BRAF and NRAS occur in 70% of melanomas. In this study, we identify a microRNA, miR-146a, that is highly upregulated by oncogenic BRAF and NRAS. Expression of miR-146a increases the ability of human melanoma cells to proliferate in culture and form tumors in mice, whereas knockdown of miR-146a has the opposite effects. We show these oncogenic activities are due to miR-146a targeting the NUMB mRNA, a repressor of Notch signaling. Previous studies have shown that pre-miR-146a contains a single nucleotide polymorphism (C>G rs2910164). We find that the ability of pre-miR-146a/G to activate Notch signaling and promote oncogenesis is substantially higher than that of pre-miR-146a/C. Analysis of melanoma cell lines and matched patient samples indicates that during melanoma progression pre-miR-146a/G is enriched relative to pre-miR-146a/C, resulting from a C-to-G somatic mutation in pre-miR-146a/C. Collectively, our results reveal a central role for miR-146a in the initiation and progression of melanoma.
eLife digest
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, and although cancer can have many causes, mutations to a small number of genes are often responsible for a large number of cancer cases. For example, about 70% of cases of the deadliest form of skin cancer have mutations in two specific genes. Many cancer-causing genes are regulated by small RNA molecules that impede the function of other genes by blocking the machinery that turns a gene into a functional protein. However, until recently there was a limited understanding of the role of these microRNAs in the skin cancers caused by the most common mutations.
Now, Forloni et al. have looked at all the microRNAs present in cells carrying a mutated form of the one of these genes, and compared these with the microRNAs found in healthy cells. A microRNA, called miR-146a, was discovered to be much more common in the cancer cells. Moreover, production of this microRNA was increased by the two cancer-causing mutations. Forloni et al. found that increasing production of this microRNA caused human skin cancer cells to grow faster, and also caused tumors to develop in mice. Reducing the level of miR-146a had the opposite effect.
Forloni et al. also looked at cancer cells taken from individuals at different stages of skin cancer and found that, as the disease progresses, an unprocessed form of miR-146a tends to acquire a mutation, which leads to much higher levels of the active, processed form of miR-146a in the cancer cells. High levels of miR-146a also switched off a gene that encodes for a protein that, in turn, switches off a protein called NOTCH that is linked to skin cancer. As such, excess miR-146a actually increases the activation of the NOTCH protein.
These results led Forloni et al. to test if delivering drugs that block the production of miR-146a by inhibiting skin cancer-causing genes, along with other drugs that inhibit the Notch signaling pathway, could be more effective than treatment with either drug on its own. The combined treatment was very effective against human skin cancer cells and could represent a promising development in the treatment of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3927633  PMID: 24550252
miRNA; BRAF; NRAS; melanoma; human
22.  Transcriptional inhibiton of Hoxd4 expression by miRNA-10a in human breast cancer cells 
BMC Molecular Biology  2009;10:12.
Small noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs), including short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs), can silence genes at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional or translational level [1,2].
Here, we show that microRNA-10a (miR-10a) targets a homologous DNA region in the promoter region of the hoxd4 gene and represses its expression at the transcriptional level. Mutational analysis of the miR-10a sequence revealed that the 3' end of the miRNA sequence is the most critical element for the silencing effect. MicroRNA-10a-induced transcriptional gene inhibition requires the presence of Dicer and Argonautes 1 and 3, and it is related to promoter associated noncoding RNAs. Bisulfite sequencing analysis showed that the reduced hoxd4 expression was accompanied by de novo DNA methylation at the hoxd4 promoter. We further demonstrated that trimethylation of histone 3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3) is involved in the miR-10a-induced hoxd4 transcriptional gene silence.
In conclusion, our results demonstrate that miR-10a can regulate human gene expression in a transcriptional manner, and indicate that endogenous small noncoding RNA-induced control of transcription may be a potential system for expressional regulation in human breast cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC2680403  PMID: 19232136
23.  Biodegradable Nanoparticles of mPEG-PLGA-PLL Triblock Copolymers as Novel Non-Viral Vectors for Improving siRNA Delivery and Gene Silencing 
Degradation of mRNA by RNA interference is one of the most powerful and specific mechanisms for gene silencing. However, insufficient cellular uptake and poor stability have limited its usefulness. Here, we report efficient delivery of siRNA via the use of biodegradable nanoparticles (NPs) made from monomethoxypoly(ethylene glycol)-poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid)-poly-l-lysine (mPEG-PLGA-PLL) triblock copolymers. Various physicochemical properties of mPEG-PLGA-PLL NPs, including morphology, size, surface charge, siRNA encapsulation efficiency, and in vitro release profile of siRNA from NPs, were characterized by scanning electron microscope, particle size and zeta potential analyzer, and high performance liquid chromatography. The levels of siRNA uptake and targeted gene inhibition were detected in human lung cancer SPC-A1-GFP cells stably expressing green fluorescent protein. Examination of the cultured SPC-A1-GFP cells with fluorescent microscope and flow cytometry showed NPs loading Cy3-labeled siRNA had much higher intracellular siRNA delivery efficiencies than siRNA alone and Lipofectamine-siRNA complexes. The gene silencing efficiency of mPEG-PLGA-PLL NPs was higher than that of commercially available transfecting agent Lipofectamine while showing no cytotoxicity. Thus, the current study demonstrates that biodegradable NPs of mPEG-PLGA-PLL triblock copolymers can be potentially applied as novel non-viral vectors for improving siRNA delivery and gene silencing.
PMCID: PMC3269702  PMID: 22312268
gene silencing; nanoparticles; PLGA; PLL; siRNA delivery; GFP
24.  MicroRNA-21 regulates breast cancer invasion partly by targeting tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 3 expression 
MicroRNAs are non-coding RNA molecules that posttranscriptionally regulate expression of target genes and have been implicated in the progress of cancer proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. The aim of this study was to determine whether microRNA-21 (miR-21), a specific microRNA implicated in multiple aspects of carcinogenesis, impacts breast cancer invasion by regulating the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 3 (TIMP3) gene.
miR-21 expression was investigated in 32 matched breast cancer and normal breast tissues, and in four human breast cancer cell lines, by Taqman quantitative real-time PCR. Cell invasive ability was determined by matrigel invasion assay in vitro, in cells transfected with miR-21 or anti-miR-21 oligonucleotides. In addition, the regulation of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 3 (TIMP3) by miR-21 was evaluated by western blotting and luciferase assays.
Of the 32 paired samples analyzed, 25 breast cancer tissues displayed overexpression of miR-21 in comparison with matched normal breast epithelium. Additionally, incidence of lymph node metastasis closely correlated with miR-21 expression, suggesting a role for miR-21 in metastasis. Similarly, each of the four breast cancer cell lines analyzed overexpressed miR-21, to varied levels. Further, cells transfected with miR-21 showed significantly increased matrigel invasion compared with control cells, whereas transfection with anti-miR-21 significantly decreased cell invasion. Evaluation of TIMP3 protein levels, a peptidase involved in extarcellular matrix degredation, inversely correlated with miR-21 expression.
As knockdown of miR-21 increased TIMP3 protein expression and luciferase reporter activity, our data suggests that miR-21 could promote invasion in breast cancer cells via its regulation of TIMP3.
PMCID: PMC2853500  PMID: 20346171
25.  Interfering nanoparticles (iNOPs) for silencing microRNAs 
Methods in enzymology  2012;509:339-353.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are single-stranded non-coding RNAs ~21 nt in length and regulate gene expression at posttranscriptional level. miRNAs are involved in almost every area of biology, including developmental processes, disease pathogenesis, and host-pathogen interactions. Dysregulation of miRNAs in various disease states makes them potential targets for therapeutic intervention. Specific miRNAs can be silenced by anti-microRNAs (anti-miRs) which are chemically modified antisense oligonucleotides complimentary to mature miRNA sequences. In vivo delivery of anit-miRs is the main barrier in achieving efficient silencing of target miRNAs. A new systemic delivery agent, interfering nanoparticles (iNOPs), was designed and prepared from lipid-functionalized poly-l-lysine dendrimer. iNOPs can efficiently deliver small RNAs including short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), miRNA mimics and anti-miRs. Systemic delivery of a chemically stabilized anti-miR-122 by iNOPs effectively silences miR-122 in mouse liver. Intravenous administration of 2mg/kg-1 anti-miR-122 complexed with iNOP-7 results in 83% specific silencing of target miRNA. The specific silencing of miR-122 by iNOP-7 is long lasting and does not induce an immune response.
PMCID: PMC3933207  PMID: 22568914

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