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1.  MiR-124 Radiosensitizes Human Colorectal Cancer Cells by Targeting PRRX1 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93917.
One of the challenges in the treatment of colorectal cancer patients is that these tumors show resistance to radiation. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in essential biological activities, including chemoresistance and radioresistance. Several research studies have indicated that miRNA played an important role in sensitizing cellular response to ionizing radiation (IR). In this study, we found that miR-124 was significantly down-regulated both in CRC-derived cell lines and clinical CRC samples compared with adjacent non-tumor colorectal tissues, MiR-124 could sensitize human colorectal cancer cells to IR in vitro and in vivo. We identified PRRX1, a new EMT inducer and stemness regulator as a novel direct target of miR-124 by using target prediction algorithms and luciferase assay. PRRX1 knockdown could sensitize CRC cells to IR similar to the effects caused by miR-124. Overexpression of PRRX1 in stably overexpressed-miR-124 cell lines could rescue the effects of radiosensitivity enhancement brought by miR-124. Taking these observations into consideration, we illustrated that miR-124 could increase the radiosensitivity of CRC cells by blocking the expression of PRRX1, which indicated miR-124 could act as a great therapeutic target for CRC patients.
PMCID: PMC3976353  PMID: 24705396
2.  Increased MicroRNA-630 Expression in Gastric Cancer Is Associated with Poor Overall Survival 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90526.
MicroRNAs are noncoding RNAs that regulate multiple cellular processes during cancer progression. Among various microRNAs, MiR-630 has recently been identified to be implicated in many critical processes in human malignancies. We aimed to investigate the significance and prognostic value of miR-630 in human gastric cancer. Gastric cancer and adjacent normal specimens from 236 patients from who had not received neoadjuvant chemotherapy were collected. The expression of miR-630 was investigated by quantitative real-time PCR assay and its association with overall survival of patients was analyzed by statistical analysis. MiR-630 expression level was significantly elevated in gastric cancer in comparison to adjacent normal specimens. It is also proved that miR-630 expression was to be associated with gastric cancer invasion, lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis and TNM stage. In addition, survival analysis proved that elevated miR-630 expression was associated with poor overall survival of patients. Multivariate survival analysis also proved that miR-630 was an independent prognostic marker after adjusted for known prognostic factors. The present study proved the over-expression of miR-630 and its association with tumor progression in human gastric cancer. It also provided the first evidence that miR-630 expression was an independent prognostic factor for patients with gastric cancer, which might be a potential valuable biomarker for gastric cancer.
PMCID: PMC3951214  PMID: 24621930
3.  Humoral Immune Responses to EGFR-Derived Peptides Predict Progression-Free and Overall Survival of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients Receiving Gefitinib 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86667.
Somatic mutations in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene are associated with clinical response to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), such as gefitinib, in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, humoral immune responses to EGFR in NSCLC patients have not been well studied. In this study, we investigated the clinical significance of immunoglobulin G (IgG) responses to EGFR-derived peptides in NSCLC patients receiving gefitinib. Plasma IgG titers to each of 60 different EGFR-derived 20-mer peptides were measured by the Luminex system in 42 NSCLC patients receiving gefitinib therapy. The relationships between the peptide-specific IgG titers and presence of EGFR mutations or patient survival were evaluated statistically.
IgG titers against the egfr_481–500, egfr_721–740, and egfr_741–760 peptides were significantly higher in patients with exon 21 mutation than in those without it. On the other hand, IgG titers against the egfr_841–860 and egfr_1001–1020 peptides were significantly lower and higher, respectively, in patients with deletion in exon 19. Multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that IgG responses to egfr_41_ 60, egfr_61_80 and egfr_481_500 were significantly prognostic for progression-free survival independent of other clinicopathological characteristics, whereas those to the egfr_41_60 and egfr_481_500 peptides were significantly prognostic for overall survival. Detection of IgG responses to EGFR-derived peptides may be a promising method for prognostication of NSCLC patients receiving gefitinib. Our results may provide new insight for better understanding of humoral responses to EGFR in NSCLC patients.
PMCID: PMC3909003  PMID: 24497964
4.  MiR-17-5p Impairs Trafficking of H-ERG K+ Channel Protein by Targeting Multiple ER Stress-Related Chaperones during Chronic Oxidative Stress 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84984.
To investigate if microRNAs (miRNAs) play a role in regulating h-ERG trafficking in the setting of chronic oxidative stress as a common deleterious factor for many cardiac disorders.
We treated neonatal rat ventricular myocytes and HEK293 cells with stable expression of h-ERG with H2O2 for 12 h and 48 h. Expression of miR-17-5p seed miRNAs was quantified by real-time RT-PCR. Protein levels of chaperones and h-ERG trafficking were measured by Western blot analysis. Luciferase reporter gene assay was used to study miRNA and target interactions. Whole-cell patch-clamp techniques were employed to record h-ERG K+ current.
H-ERG trafficking was impaired by H2O2 after 48 h treatment, accompanied by reciprocal changes of expression between miR-17-5p seed miRNAs and several chaperones (Hsp70, Hsc70, CANX, and Golga2), with the former upregulated and the latter downregulated. We established these chaperones as targets for miR-17-5p. Application miR-17-5p inhibitor rescued H2O2-induced impairment of h-ERG trafficking. Upregulation of endogenous by H2O2 or forced miR-17-5p expression either reduced h-ERG current. Sequestration of AP1 by its decoy molecule eliminated the upregulation of miR-17-5p, and ameliorated impairment of h-ERG trafficking.
Collectively, deregulation of the miR-17-5p seed family miRNAs can cause severe impairment of h-ERG trafficking through targeting multiple ER stress-related chaperones, and activation of AP1 likely accounts for the deleterious upregulation of these miRNAs, in the setting of prolonged duration of oxidative stress. These findings revealed the role of miRNAs in h-ERG trafficking, which may contribute to the cardiac electrical disturbances associated with oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3875566  PMID: 24386440
5.  Hodgkin-Reed-Sternberg Cells in Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma Show Alterations of Genes Encoding the NADPH Oxidase Complex and Impaired Reactive Oxygen Species Synthesis Capacity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84928.
The membrane bound NADPH oxidase involved in the synthesis of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a multi-protein enzyme encoded by CYBA, CYBB, NCF1, NCF2 and NCF4 genes. Growing evidence suggests a role of ROS in the modulation of signaling pathways of non-phagocytic cells, including differentiation and proliferation of B-cell progenitors. Transcriptional downregulation of the CYBB gene has been previously reported in cell lines of the B-cell derived classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL). Thus, we explored functional consequences of CYBB downregulation on the NADPH complex. Using flow cytometry to detect and quantify superoxide anion synthesis in cHL cell lines we identified recurrent loss of superoxide anion production in all stimulated cHL cell lines in contrast to stimulated non-Hodgkin lymphoma cell lines. As CYBB loss proved to exert a deleterious effect on the NADPH oxidase complex in cHL cell lines, we analyzed the CYBB locus in Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells of primary cHL biopsies by in situ hybridisation and identified recurrent deletions of the gene in 8/18 cases. Immunohistochemical analysis to 14 of these cases revealed a complete lack of detectable CYBB protein expression in all HRS cells in all cases studied. Moreover, by microarray profiling of cHL cell lines we identified additional alterations of NADPH oxidase genes including CYBA copy number loss in 3/7 cell lines and a significant downregulation of the NCF1 transcription (p=0.006) compared to normal B-cell subsets. Besides, NCF1 protein was significantly downregulated (p<0.005) in cHL compared to other lymphoma cell lines. Together this findings show recurrent alterations of the NADPH oxidase encoding genes that result in functional inactivation of the enzyme and reduced production of superoxide anion in cHL.
PMCID: PMC3871653  PMID: 24376854
6.  Genome-Wide Analyses of Radioresistance-Associated miRNA Expression Profile in Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma Using Next Generation Deep Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84486.
Rapidly growing evidence suggests that microRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in a wide range of cancer malignant behaviours including radioresistance. Therefore, the present study was designed to investigate miRNA expression patterns associated with radioresistance in NPC.
The differential expression profiles of miRNAs and mRNAs associated with NPC radioresistance were constructed. The predicted target mRNAs of miRNAs and their enriched signaling pathways were analyzed via biological informatical algorithms. Finally, partial miRNAs and pathways-correlated target mRNAs were validated in two NPC radioreisitant cell models.
50 known and 9 novel miRNAs with significant difference were identified, and their target mRNAs were narrowed down to 53 nasopharyngeal-/NPC-specific mRNAs. Subsequent KEGG analyses demonstrated that the 53 mRNAs were enriched in 37 signaling pathways. Further qRT-PCR assays confirmed 3 down-regulated miRNAs (miR-324-3p, miR-93-3p and miR-4501), 3 up-regulated miRNAs (miR-371a-5p, miR-34c-5p and miR-1323) and 2 novel miRNAs. Additionally, corresponding alterations of pathways-correlated target mRNAs were observed including 5 up-regulated mRNAs (ICAM1, WNT2B, MYC, HLA-F and TGF-β1) and 3 down-regulated mRNAs (CDH1, PTENP1 and HSP90AA1).
Our study provides an overview of miRNA expression profile and the interactions between miRNA and their target mRNAs, which will deepen our understanding of the important roles of miRNAs in NPC radioresistance.
PMCID: PMC3868612  PMID: 24367666
7.  microRNA 126 Inhibits the Transition of Endothelial Progenitor Cells to Mesenchymal Cells via the PIK3R2-PI3K/Akt Signalling Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83294.
Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) are capable of proliferating and differentiating into mature endothelial cells, and they have been considered as potential candidates for coronary heart disease therapy. However, the transition of EPCs to mesenchymal cells is not fully understood. This study aimed to explore the role of microRNA 126 (miR-126) in the endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) induced by transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFβ1).
Methods and Results
EndMT of rat bone marrow-derived EPCs was induced by TGFβ1 (5 ng/mL) for 7 days. miR-126 expression was depressed in the process of EPC EndMT. The luciferase reporter assay showed that the PI3K regulatory subunit p85 beta (PIK3R2) was a direct target of miR-126 in EPCs. Overexpression of miR-126 by a lentiviral vector (lenti-miR-126) was found to downregulate the mRNA expression of mesenchymal cell markers (α-SMA, sm22-a, and myocardin) and to maintain the mRNA expression of progenitor cell markers (CD34, CD133). In the cellular process of EndMT, there was an increase in the protein expression of PIK3R2 and the nuclear transcription factors FoxO3 and Smad4; PI3K and phosphor-Akt expression decreased, a change that was reversed markedly by overexpression of miR-126. Furthermore, knockdown of PIK3R2 gene expression level showed reversed morphological changes of the EPCs treated with TGFβ1, thereby giving the evidence that PIK3R2 is the target gene of miR-126 during EndMT process.
These results show that miR-126 targets PIK3R2 to inhibit EPC EndMT and that this process involves regulation of the PI3K/Akt signalling pathway. miR-126 has the potential to be used as a biomarker for the early diagnosis of intimal hyperplasia in cardiovascular disease and can even be a therapeutic tool for treating cardiovascular diseases mediated by the EndMT process.
PMCID: PMC3862723  PMID: 24349482
8.  Identification and Validation of Reference Genes for qPCR Detection of Serum microRNAs in Colorectal Adenocarcinoma Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83025.
Serum microRNAs (miRNAs) have become a highlighted research hotspot, especially for their great potential as a novel promising non-invasive biomarker in cancer diagnosis. The most frequently used approach for serum miRNAs detection is quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). In order to obtain reliable qPCR data of miRNAs expression, the use of reference genes as endogenous control is undoubtly necessary. However, no systematic evaluation and validation of reference genes for normalizing qPCR analysis of serum miRNAs has been reported in colorectal adenocarcinoma. We firstly profiled pooled serum of colorectal adenocarcinoma, colorectal adenoma and healthy controls and selected a list of 13 miRNAs as candidate reference genes. U6 snRNA (U6) and above-mentioned 13 miRNAs were included in further confirmation by qPCR. As a result, 5 miRNAs (miR-151a-3p, miR-4446-3p, miR-221-3p, miR-93-5p and miR-3184-3p) were not detected in all samples and 2 miRNAs (miR-197-3p and miR-26a-5p) were relatively low with median Cq more than 35, and were excluded from further stability analysis. Then variable stability of other 6 miRNAs (miR-103b, miR-484, miR-16-5p, miR-3615, miR-18a-3p and miR-191-5p) and U6 were evaluated using two algorithms: geNorm and NormFinder which both identified miR-191-5p as the most stably expressed reference gene and selected miR-191-5p and U6 as the most stable pair of reference genes. After validating in an independent large cohorts and selecting miR-92a-3p as target miRNA to evaluate the effect of reference gene, we propose that combination of miR-191-5p and U6 could be used as reference genes for serum microRNAs qPCR data in colorectal adenocarcinoma, colorectal adenoma and healthy controls.
PMCID: PMC3859607  PMID: 24349425
9.  miR-150 Promotes Human Breast Cancer Growth and Malignant Behavior by Targeting the Pro-Apoptotic Purinergic P2X7 Receptor 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e80707.
The P2X7 receptor regulates cell growth through mediation of apoptosis. Low level expression of P2X7 has been linked to cancer development because tumor cells harboring a defective P2X7 mechanism can escape P2X7 pro-apoptotic control. microRNAs (miRNAs) function as negative regulators of post-transcriptional gene expression, playing major roles in cellular differentiation, proliferation, and metastasis. In this study, we found that miR-150 was over-expressed in breast cancer cell lines and tissues. In these breast cancer cell lines, blocking the action of miR-150 with inhibitors leads to cell death, while ectopic expression of the miR-150 results in increased cell proliferation. We deploy a microRNA sponge strategy to inhibit miR-150 in vitro, and the result demonstrates that the 3′-untranslated region (3′UTR) of P2X7 receptor contains a highly conserved miR-150-binding motif and its direct interaction with miR-150 down-regulates endogenous P2X7 protein levels. Furthermore, our findings demonstrate that miR-150 over-expression promotes growth, clonogenicity and reduces apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Meanwhile, these findings can be decapitated in nude mice with breast cancer xenografts. Finally, these observations strengthen our working hypothesis that up-regulation of miR-150 in breast cancer is inversely associated with P2X7 receptor expression level. Together, these findings establish miR-150 as a novel regulator of P2X7 and a potential therapeutic target for breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3846619  PMID: 24312495
10.  miR-127 Regulates Cell Proliferation and Senescence by Targeting BCL6 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80266.
Cellular senescence occurs as a response to extracellular and intracellular stresses and contributes to aging and age-related pathologies. Emerging evidence suggests that cellular senescence also acts as a potent tumor suppression mechanism that prevents the oncogenic transformation of primary human cells. Recent reports have indicated that miRNAsact as key modulators of cellular senescence by targeting critical regulators of the senescence pathways. We previously reported that miR-127 is up-regulated in senescent fibroblasts. In this report, we identified miR-127 as a novel regulator of cellular senescence that directly targets BCL6. We further showed that miR-127 is down-regulated in breast cancer tissuesand that this down-regulation is associated with up-regulation of BCL6. Over-expression of miR-127 or depletion of BCL6 inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation. Our data suggest that miR-127 may function as a tumor suppressor that modulates the oncogene BCL6.
PMCID: PMC3840165  PMID: 24282530
11.  Roles of Mir-144-ZFX Pathway in Growth Regulation of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74175.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) accounts for most of the lung cancer cases and the prognosis of this disease remains poor despite decades of intensive investigation. Thus new insights into underlying mechanisms by which NSCLC develops are avidly needed as the basis for development of new lines of therapeutic strategies. The past decade has witnessed a growing interest on the regulatory roles of micro RNAs on various categories of malignancies. Related data has been well documented in carcinogenesis and pathophysiology of a variety of malignancies. Even so, there is a relative lack of data on roles of mir-144 in tumor biology and there has been no report showing the involvement of mir-144 in NSCLC development.
Methods/Principal Finding
From human NSCLC tumor tissue samples and cell culture samples, we found that the expression of mir-144 is associated with malignant phenotype of NSCLC. Further investigations showed that ectopic mir-144 expression dramatically inhibits NSCLC tumor cell growth and induces apoptosis as manifested by elevated apoptotic protein markers and flowcytometry change. Moreover, we also found that ZFX protein expression is also associated with malignant phenotype of NSCLC and knockdown of ZFX protein results in a similar effect as of ectopic mir-144 expression. Finally, we found that ZFX expression is highly adjustable upon presence of mir-144 and ectopic expression of ZFX dramatically dampens mir-144 action of tumor inhibition.
Our results for the first time showed mir-144-ZFX pathway is involved in the development of NSCLC, which sheds a light for further investigations on underlying mechanisms toward better understanding and management of NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3774613  PMID: 24066116
12.  Autophagy Plays a Critical Role in ChLym-1-Induced Cytotoxicity of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72478.
Autophagy is a critical mechanism in both cancer therapy resistance and tumor suppression. Monoclonal antibodies have been documented to kill tumor cells via apoptosis, antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) and complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC). In this study, we report for the first time that chLym-1, a chimeric anti-human HLA-DR monoclonal antibody, induces autophagy in Raji Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) cells. Interestingly, inhibition of autophagy by pharmacological inhibitors (3-methyladenine and NH4Cl) or genetic approaches (siRNA targeting Atg5) suppresses chLym-1-induced growth inhibition, apoptosis, ADCC and CDC in Raji cells, while induction of autophagy could accelerate cytotoxic effects of chLym-1 on Raji cells. Furthermore, chLym-1-induced autophagy can mediate apoptosis through Caspase 9 activation, demonstrating the tumor-suppressing role of autophagy in antilymphoma effects of chLym-1. Moreover, chLym-1 can activate several upstream signaling pathways of autophagy including Akt/mTOR and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (Erk1/2). These results elucidate the critical role of autophagy in cytotoxicity of chLym-1 antibody and suggest a potential therapeutic strategy of NHL therapy by monoclonal antibody chLym-1 in combination with autophagy inducer.
PMCID: PMC3756084  PMID: 24015249
13.  Association between DNA Methylation in the miR-328 5’-Flanking Region and Inter-individual Differences in miR-328 and BCRP Expression in Human Placenta 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72906.
MicroRNA (miRNA) are non-coding small RNA that regulate gene expression. MiR-328 is reported to influence breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP) expression in cancer cells. As a large inter-individual difference in BCRP levels is observed in various human tissues, the contribution of miR-328 to these differences is of interest. We hypothesized that DNA methylation in the miR-328 promoter region is responsible for the difference in miR-328 levels, leading to inter-individual variability in BCRP levels in human placenta. The association between placental miR-328 and BCRP levels was analyzed, and then DNA methylation in the miR-328 5'-flanking region and regulatory mechanisms causing inter-individual differences in miR-328 and BCRP levels were examined. MiR-328 expression was significantly correlated with BCRP mRNA (Rs = -0.560, P < 0.01) and protein (Rs = -0.730, P < 0.01) levels. It was also up-regulated by the demethylating agent 5-aza-2’-deoxycytidine in BCRP-expressing cells. Luciferase assays with differentially methylated reporter constructs indicated that methylation in the miR-328 5’-flanking region including a predicted CpG island remarkably decreased transcriptional activity compared to that in unmethylated constructs. We selected CCAAT/enhancer binding protein α (C/EBPα), located within the predicted CpG island, by in silico analysis. To elucidate the role of C/EBPα in miR-328 expression, a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay, promoter deletion analysis, and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) were performed. C/EBPα-binding site-truncated constructs showed significantly decreased promoter activity, and EMSA indicated that the C/EBPα-binding sites were located in the CpG island. Finally, the methylation patterns of several CpG dinucleotides proximal to two C/EBPα-binding sites in the miR-328 5’-flanking region were correlated negatively with miR-328 levels, and positively with BCRP levels in human placental samples. These results suggest that methylation patterns in the miR-328 5’-flanking region are involved in the inter-individual difference in BCRP levels in human placenta.
PMCID: PMC3749162  PMID: 23991164
14.  A Novel Application of Furazolidone: Anti-Leukemic Activity in Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72335.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common malignant myeloid disorder of progenitor cells in myeloid hematopoiesis and exemplifies a genetically heterogeneous disease. The patients with AML also show a heterogeneous response to therapy. Although all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) has been successfully introduced to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), it is rather ineffective in non-APL AML. In our present study, 1200 off-patent marketed drugs and natural compounds that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were screened for anti-leukemia activity using the retrovirus transduction/transformation assay (RTTA). Furazolidone (FZD) was shown to inhibit bone marrow transformation mediated by several leukemia fusion proteins, including AML1-ETO. Furazolidone has been used in the treatment of certain bacterial and protozoan infections in human and animals for more than sixty years. We investigated the anti-leukemic activity of FZD in a series of AML cells. FZD displayed potent antiproliferative properties at submicromolar concentrations and induced apoptosis in AML cell lines. Importantly, FZD treatment of certain AML cells induced myeloid cell differentiation by morphology and flow cytometry for CD11b expression. Furthermore, FZD treatment resulted in increased stability of tumor suppressor p53 protein in AML cells. Our in vitro results suggest furazolidone as a novel therapeutic strategy in AML patients.
PMCID: PMC3739762  PMID: 23951311
15.  Mutation of GDP-Mannose-4,6-Dehydratase in Colorectal Cancer Metastasis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70298.
Fucosylation is a crucial oligosaccharide modification in cancer. The known function of fucosylation in cancer is to mediate metastasis through selectin ligand-dependent processes. Previously, we found complete loss of fucosylation in the colon cancer cell line HCT116 due to a mutation in the GDP-fucose synthetic enzyme, GDP-mannose-4,6-dehydratase (GMDS). Loss of fucosylation led to escape of cancer cells from tumor immune surveillance followed by tumor progression and metastasis, suggesting a novel function of fucosylation in tumor progression pathway. In the present study, we investigated the frequency of GMDS mutation in a number of clinical colorectal cancer tissue samples: 81 samples of primary colorectal cancer tissue and 39 samples of metastatic lesion including liver and lymph node. Four types of deletion mutation in GMDS were identified in original cancer tissues as well as metastatic lesions. The frequency of GMDS mutation was slightly higher in metastatic lesions (12.8%, 5/39 samples) than in original cancer tissues (8.6%, 7/81 samples). No mutation of the GMDS gene was observed in normal colon tissues surrounding cancer tissues, suggesting that the mutation is somatic rather than in the germline. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed complete loss of fucosylation in three cases of cancer tissue. All three cases had GMDS mutation. In one of three cases, loss of fucosylation was observed in only metastatic lesion, but not its original colon cancer tissue. These data demonstrate involvement of GMDS mutation in the progression of colorectal cancer.
PMCID: PMC3726606  PMID: 23922970
16.  Decreased Expression of AZGP1 Is Associated with Poor Prognosis in Primary Gastric Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69155.
2-Zinc-glycoprotein 1 (AZGP1) is a multidisciplinary protein that participates in many important functions in the human body, including fertilization, immunoregulation and lipid mobilization. Recently, it has been shown that AZGP1 is also involved in carcinogenesis and tumor differentiation. In this study, we investigated the expression levels and prognostic value of AZGP1 in primary gastric cancers.
Methods and Results
We examined the expression of AZGP1 in 35 paired cancerous and matched adjacent noncancerous gastric mucosa tissues by real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) and western blotting. Furthermore, we analyzed AZGP1 expression in 248 patients who underwent resection procedures between 2005 and 2007 using immunohistochemistry. The relationships between the AZGP1 expression levels, the clinicopathological factors, and patient survival were investigated. AZGP1 expression was significantly reduced at both the mRNA (P = 0.023) and protein levels (P = 0.019) in tumor tissue samples, compared with expression in matched adjacent non-tumor tissue samples. The immunohistochemical staining data showed that AZGP1 expression was significantly decreased in 52.8% (131/248) of gastric adenocarcinoma cases. Clinicopathological analysis showed that the reduced expression of AZGP1 was significantly correlated with tumor location (P = 0.011), histological grade (P = 0.005) and T stage (P = 0.008). Kaplan–Meier survival curves revealed that the reduced expression of AZGP1 was associated with a poor prognosis in gastric adenocarcinoma patients (P = 0.009). Multivariate Cox analysis identified AZGP1 expression was an independent prognostic factor for overall survival of gastric adenocarcinoma patients (HR = 1.681, 95% CI = 1.134–2.494, P = 0.011).
Our study suggests that AZGP1 might serve as a candidate tumor suppressor and a potential prognostic biomarker in gastric carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3720544  PMID: 23935945
17.  Effects of MICA Expression on the Prognosis of Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and the Efficacy of CIK Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69044.
To investigate the clinical significance of the expression of MHC class I chain-related gene A (MICA) in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer and explore the relationship between MICA expression and the efficacy of cytokine-induced killer cell (CIK) therapy for treating advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
We obtained data on 222 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, including data on MICA expression, age, gender, ECOG score, pathological type, stage, treatment history (including 38 patients who were given autologous CIK cell infusion), and overall survival (OS). MICA expression in lung cancer tissue was evaluated by immunohistochemical staining. Analyses of MICA expression, and CIK therapy association with survival outcomes were performed using Cox proportional models, Kaplan-Meier methods, and the log-rank test.
s MICA was expressed in both membrane and cytoplasm. MICA expression correlated with the stage of lung cancer, ECOG score, gender and age. Multivariate COX regression analysis showed that the expression of MICA was an independent prognostic factor of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (p = 0.002). In subgroup analysis, we divided the 222 patients into CIK and control groups. In the CIK group, the medium OS (mOS) of patients with a high expression of MICA was longer than in those with low expression of MICA (27 months vs. 13 months). In the control group, the mOS in patients with a high expression of MICA was shorter than in patients with low MICA expression (9 months vs. 18 months). COX regression analysis showed that the MICA expression affects the effect of CIK therapy (p<0.0001).
1) The high expression of MICA is one of the indicators of a poor prognosis for advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients. 2) The high expression of MICA might be one of the predictive factors for successful CIK therapy.
PMCID: PMC3720869  PMID: 23935919
18.  The Functional Significance of MicroRNA-29c in Patients with Colorectal Cancer: A Potential Circulating Biomarker for Predicting Early Relapse 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66842.
The recurrence of colorectal cancer (CRC) is frequent within the first year of curative resection surgery and may be unavoidable. microRNAs have been suggested to play roles in carcinogenesis and cancer recurrence. We recently identified microRNA-29c (miRNA-29c) as a predictor of early recurrence in CRC. In the present study, we further investigated the functions and serum level of miRNA-29c in relation to early recurrence of CRC.
First we further confirmed overexpression of miRNA-29c in non-early relapse subjects. Gain-of-function in vitro studies were used to evaluate the effect of miRNA-29c on cell proliferation, migration, invasion, and cell cycle progression. The colon cancer cell line Caco2 and a stable clone overexpressing miRNA-29c were xenografted to evaluate the in vivo effect of miRNA-29c in null mice. Finally, circulating miRNA-29c was investigated as a potential biomarker for identifying early relapse.
miRNA-29c expression significantly decreased during early relapse compared to non-early relapse in UICC stage II and III CRC patients (P = 0.021). In vitro studies showed that overexpression of miRNA-29c inhibited cell proliferation and migration. The cell cycle studies also revealed that miRNA-29c caused an accumulation of the G1 and G2 population. In vivo, miRNA-29c suppressed tumor growth in null mice. The serum miRNA-29c increased significantly in early relapsed patients compared to non-early elapsed patients (P = 0.012).
miRNA-29c shows anti-tumorigenesis activity, and preoperative circulating miRNA-29c levels can be used to predict postoperative early relapse of CRC.
PMCID: PMC3696003  PMID: 23840538
19.  Epigenetic Silencing of miR-338-3p Contributes to Tumorigenicity in Gastric Cancer by Targeting SSX2IP 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66782.
MicroRNA has been recently recognized as playing a prominent role in tumorigenesis and metastasis. Here, we report that miR-338-3p was epigenetically silenced in gastric cancer, and its down-regulation was significantly correlated with gastric cancer clinicopathological features. Strikingly, restoring miR-338-3p expression in SGC-7901 gastric cancer cells inhibited proliferation, migration, invasion and tumorigenicity in vitro and in vivo, at least partly through inducing apoptosis. Furthermore, we demonstrate the oncogene SSX2IP is a target of miR-338-3p. We propose that miR-338-3p functions as a tumor suppressor in gastric cancer, and the methylation status of its CpG island could serve as a potential diagnostic marker for gastric cancer.
PMCID: PMC3691322  PMID: 23826132
20.  The Noncoding RNA Expression Profile and the Effect of lncRNA AK126698 on Cisplatin Resistance in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer Cell 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e65309.
The efficacy of cisplatin-based chemotherapy in non-small-cell lung cancer is limited by the acquired drug resistance. Identification the RNAs related to the cisplatin resistance may help to improve clinical response rates.
Microarray expression profiling of mRNAs, lncRNA and miRNA was undertaken in A549 cells and cisplatin resistant A549/CDDP cells. Differentially expressed mRNAs, lncRNAs and miRNAs, verified by realtime RT-PCR, were subjected to pathway analysis. Expression of NKD2 and β-catenin was assessed by realtime RT-PCR and western blot analysis. The effect of lncRNA AK126698 on cisplatin induced apoptosis was investigated by annexin-V/PI flow cytometry.
In total, 1471 mRNAs, 1380 lncRNAs and 25 miRNAs differentially expressed in A549/CDDP and A549 cells. Among them, 8 mRNAs, 8 lncRNAs and 5 miRNAs differentially expressed in gene chip analysis were validated. High-enrichment pathway analysis identified that some classical pathways participated in proliferation, differentiation, avoidance of apoptosis, and drug metabolism were differently expressed in these cells lines. Gene co-expression network identified many genes like FN1, CTSB, EGFR, and NKD2; lncRNAs including BX648420, ENST00000366408, and AK126698; and miRNAs such as miR-26a and let-7i potentially played a key role in cisplatin resistance. Among which, the canonical Wnt pathway was investigated because it was demonstrated to be targeted by both lncRNAs and miRNAs including lncRNA AK126698. Knockdown lncRNA AK126698 not only greatly decreased NKD2 which can negatively regulate Wnt/β-catenin signaling but also increased the accumulation and nuclear translocation of β-catenin, and significantly depressed apoptosis rate induced by cisplatin in A549 cells.
Cisplatin resistance in non-small-cell lung cancer cells may relate to the changes in noncoding RNAs. Among these, AK126698 appears to confer cisplatin resistance by targeting the Wnt pathway.
PMCID: PMC3669360  PMID: 23741487
21.  MiR-SNPs as Markers of Toxicity and Clinical Outcome in Hodgkin Lymphoma Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64716.
In recent years, microRNA (miRNA) pathways have emerged as a crucial system for the regulation of tumorogenesis. miR-SNPs are a novel class of single nucleotide polymorphisms that can affect miRNA pathways.
Design and Methods
We analyzed eight miR-SNPs by allelic discrimination in 141 patients with Hodgkin lymphoma and correlated the results with treatment-related toxicity, response, disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS).
The KRT81 (rs3660) GG genotype was associated with an increased risk of neurological toxicity (P = 0.016), while patients with XPO5 (rs11077) AA or CC genotypes had a higher rate of bleomycin-associated pulmonary toxicity (P = 0.048). Both miR-SNPs emerged as independent factors in the multivariate analysis. The XPO5 AA and CC genotypes were also associated with a lower response rate (P = 0.036). XPO5 (P = 0.039) and TRBP (rs784567) (P = 0.022) genotypes emerged as prognostic markers for DFS, and XPO5 was also associated with OS (P = 0.033). In the multivariate analysis, only XPO5 emerged as an independent prognostic factor for DFS (HR: 2.622; 95%CI 1.039–6.620; P = 0.041). Given the influence of XPO5 and TRBP as individual markers, we then investigated the combined effect of these miR-SNPs. Patients with both the XPO5 AA/CC and TRBP TT/TC genotypes had the shortest DFS (P = 0.008) and OS (P = 0.008).
miR-SNPs can add useful prognostic information on treatment-related toxicity and clinical outcome in Hodgkin lymphoma and can be used to identify patients likely to be chemoresistant or to relapse.
PMCID: PMC3660374  PMID: 23705004
22.  Novel Molecular Tumor Cell Markers in Regional Lymph Nodes and Blood Samples from Patients Undergoing Surgery for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e62153.
Recent evidence suggests that microscopic lymph node metastases and circulating tumor cells may have clinical importance in lung cancer. The purpose of this study was to identify new molecular markers for tumor cells in regional lymph nodes (LNs) and peripheral blood (PB) from patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Candidate markers were selected based on digital transcript profiling and previous literature. KRT19, CEACAM5, EPCAM, DSG3, SFTPA, SFTPC and SFTPB mRNA levels were initially validated by real-time reverse transcription PCR-based quantification in 16 NSCLC tumors and 22 LNs and 12 PB samples from individuals without known cancer. Five of the candidate markers were selected for secondary validation by quantification in parallel tumor biopsies, regional LNs and PB samples from 55 patients undergoing surgery for NSCLC. LN and PB marker status were compared to clinicopathological patient data.
All selected markers except DSG3 were present at high levels in the primary tumors and at very low or non-detectable levels in normal LNs and PB in the first round of validation, indicating a potential for detecting tumor cells in NSCLC patients. The expression profiles of KRT19, CEACAM5, DSG3, SFTPA and SFTPC mRNA were confirmed in the larger group during the secondary validation. Using the highest normal LN level of each marker as threshold, 39 (71%) of the 55 patients had elevated levels of at least one marker in regional LNs. Similarly, 26 (47%) patients had elevated levels of at least one marker in PB. A significantly higher number of patients with adenocarcinomas had positive LN status for these markers, compared with other histological types (P = 0.004).
Several promising molecular tumor cell markers in regional LNs and PB were identified, including the new SFTPA and SFTPC mRNAs. Clinical follow-up in a larger cohort is needed to elucidate their prognostic value.
PMCID: PMC3643953  PMID: 23671585
23.  De-Regulated MicroRNAs in Pediatric Cancer Stem Cells Target Pathways Involved in Cell Proliferation, Cell Cycle and Development 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61622.
microRNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in the control of many biological processes and their deregulation has been associated with many cancers. In recent years, the cancer stem cell (CSC) concept has been applied to many cancers including pediatric. We hypothesized that a common signature of deregulated miRNAs in the CSCs fraction may explain the disrupted signaling pathways in CSCs.
Using a high throughput qPCR approach we identified 26 CSC associated differentially expressed miRNAs (DEmiRs). Using BCmicrO algorithm 865 potential CSC associated DEmiR targets were obtained. These potential targets were subjected to KEGG, Biocarta and Gene Ontology pathway and biological processes analysis. Four annotated pathways were enriched: cell cycle, cell proliferation, p53 and TGF-beta/BMP. Knocking down hsa-miR-21-5p, hsa-miR-181c-5p and hsa-miR-135b-5p using antisense oligonucleotides and small interfering RNA in cell lines led to the depletion of the CSC fraction and impairment of sphere formation (CSC surrogate assays).
Our findings indicated that CSC associated DEmiRs and the putative pathways they regulate may have potential therapeutic applications in pediatric cancers.
PMCID: PMC3629228  PMID: 23613887
24.  Downregulation of Serine Protease HTRA1 Is Associated with Poor Survival in Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60359.
HTRA1 is a highly conserved serine protease which has been implicated in suppression of epithelial-to-mesenchymal-transition (EMT) and cell motility in breast cancer. Its prognostic relevance for breast cancer is unclear so far. Therefore, we evaluated the impact of HTRA1 mRNA expression on patient outcome using a cohort of 131 breast cancer patients as well as a validation cohort including 2809 publically available data sets. Additionally, we aimed at investigating for the presence of promoter hypermethylation as a mechanism for silencing the HTRA1 gene in breast tumors. HTRA1 downregulation was detected in more than 50% of the breast cancer specimens and was associated with higher tumor stage (p = 0.025). By applying Cox proportional hazard models, we observed favorable overall (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) related to high HTRA1 expression (HR = 0.45 [CI 0.23–0.90], p = 0.023; HR = 0.55 [CI 0.32–0.94], p = 0.028, respectively), with even more pronounced impact in node-positive patients (HR = 0.21 [CI 0.07–0.63], p = 0.006; HR = 0.29 [CI 0.13–0.65], p = 0.002, respectively). Moreover, HTRA1 remained a statistically significant factor predicting DFS among established clinical parameters in the multivariable analysis. Its impact on patient outcome was independently confirmed in the validation set (for relapse-free survival (n = 2809): HR = 0.79 [CI 0.7–0.9], log-rank p = 0.0003; for OS (n = 971): HR = 0.63 [CI 0.48–0.83], log-rank p = 0.0009). In promoter analyses, we in fact detected methylation of HTRA1 in a small subset of breast cancer specimens (two out of a series of 12), and in MCF-7 breast cancer cells which exhibited 22-fold lower HTRA1 mRNA expression levels compared to unmethylated MDA-MB-231 cells. In conclusion, we show that downregulation of HTRA1 is associated with shorter patient survival, particularly in node-positive breast cancer. Since HTRA1 loss was demonstrated to induce EMT and cancer cell invasion, these patients might benefit from demethylating agents or histone deacetylase inhibitors previously reported to lead to HTRA1 upregulation, or from novel small-molecule inhibitors targeting EMT-related processes.
PMCID: PMC3620283  PMID: 23580433
25.  MicroRNA-21 is Induced by Rapamycin in a Model of Tuberous Sclerosis (TSC) and Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e60014.
Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a multisystem disease of women, is manifest by the proliferation of smooth muscle-like cells in the lung resulting in cystic lung destruction. Women with LAM can also develop renal angiomyolipomas. LAM is caused by mutations in the tuberous sclerosis complex genes (TSC1 or TSC2), resulting in hyperactive mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) signaling. The mTOR inhibitor, Rapamycin, stabilizes lung function in LAM and decreases the volume of renal angiomyolipomas, but lung function declines and angiomyolipomas regrow when treatment is discontinued, suggesting that factors induced by mTORC1 inhibition may promote the survival of TSC2-deficient cells. Whether microRNA (miRNA, miR) signaling is involved in the response of LAM to mTORC1 inhibition is unknown. We identified Rapamycin-dependent miRNA in LAM patient angiomyolipoma-derived cells using two separate screens. First, we assayed 132 miRNA of known significance to tumor biology. Using a cut-off of >1.5-fold change, 48 microRNA were Rapamycin-induced, while 4 miRs were downregulated. In a second screen encompassing 946 miRNA, 18 miRs were upregulated by Rapamycin, while eight were downregulated. Dysregulation of miRs 29b, 21, 24, 221, 106a and 199a were common to both platforms and were classified as candidate “RapamiRs.” Validation by qRT-PCR confirmed that these microRNA were increased. miR-21, a pro-survival miR, was the most significantly increased by mTOR-inhibition (p<0.01). The regulation of miR-21 by Rapamycin is cell type independent. mTOR inhibition promotes the processing of the miR-21 transcript (pri-miR-21) to a premature form (pre-miR-21). In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that Rapamycin upregulates multiple miRs, including pro-survival miRs, in TSC2-deficient patient-derived cells. The induction of miRs may contribute to the response of LAM and TSC patients to Rapamycin therapy.
PMCID: PMC3612076  PMID: 23555865

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