miRNAs are small regulatory RNAs that, due to their considerable potential to target a wide range of mRNAs, are implicated in essentially all biological process, including cancer. miR-10a is particularly interesting considering its conserved location in the Hox cluster of developmental regulators. A role for this microRNA has been described in developmental regulation as well as for various cancers. However, previous miR-10a studies are exclusively based on transient knockdowns of this miRNA and to extensively study miR-10a loss we have generated a miR-10a knock out mouse. Here we show that, in the Apcmin mouse model of intestinal neoplasia, female miR-10a deficient mice develop significantly more adenomas than miR-10+/+ and male controls. We further found that Lpo is extensively upregulated in the intestinal epithelium of mice deprived of miR-10a. Using in vitro assays, we demonstrate that the primary miR-10a target KLF4 can upregulate transcription of Lpo, whereas siRNA knockdown of KLF4 reduces LPO levels in HCT-116 cells. Furthermore, Klf4 is upregulated in the intestines of miR-10a knockout mice. Lpo has previously been shown to have the capacity to oxidize estrogens into potent depurinating mutagens, creating an instable genomic environment that can cause initiation of cancer. Therefore, we postulate that Lpo upregulation in the intestinal epithelium of miR-10a deficient mice together with the predominant abundance of estrogens in female animals mainly accounts for the sex-related cancer phenotype we observed. This suggests that miR-10a could be used as a potent diagnostic marker for discovering groups of women that are at high risk of developing colorectal carcinoma, which today is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths.
Posttranscriptional regulation by microRNA molecules constitutes an important mechanism for gene regulation and numerous studies have demonstrated a correlation between deregulated microRNA levels and diseases, such as cancer. However, genetics studies linking individual microRNAs to the etiology of cancer remain scarce. Here, we provide causal evidence for the involvement of the conserved microRNA miR-10a in the development of intestinal adenomas in the face of activated Wnt signaling. Interestingly, we find that loss of miR-10a mediates an increase in intestinal adenomas in female mice only and delineate the pathway to involve aberrant upregulation of the miR-10a target Klf4 and subsequent transcriptional activation of the Lpo gene encoding the antibacterial protein Lactoperoxidase. Lpo, in turn, has previously been demonstrated to oxidize estrogens into DNA-damaging mutagens.