While cancer is a serious health issue, there are very few genetic biomarkers that predict predisposition, prognosis, diagnosis, and treatment response. Recently, sequence variations that disrupt microRNA (miRNA)-mediated regulation of genes have been shown to be associated with many human diseases, including cancer. In an early example, a variant at one particular single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in a let-7 miRNA complementary site in the 3′ untranslated region (3′ UTR) of the KRAS gene was associated with risk and outcome of various cancers. The KRAS oncogene is an important regulator of cellular proliferation, and is frequently mutated in cancers. To discover additional sequence variants in the 3′ UTR of KRAS with the potential as genetic biomarkers, we resequenced the complete region of the 3′ UTR of KRAS in multiple non-small cell lung cancer and epithelial ovarian cancer cases either by Sanger sequencing or capture enrichment followed by high-throughput sequencing. Here we report a comprehensive list of sequence variations identified in cases, with some potentially dysregulating expression of KRAS by altering putative miRNA complementary sites. Notably, rs712, rs9266, and one novel variant may have a functional role in regulation of KRAS by disrupting complementary sites of various miRNAs, including let-7 and miR-181.
3′ UTR; let-7; EOC; KRAS; NSCLC; SNP; epithelial ovarian cancer; microRNA; non-small cell lung cancer; sequence variant
The conserved lin-4 microRNA (miRNA) regulates the proper timing of stem cell fate decisions in C. elegans by regulating stemness genes such as lin-14 and lin-28.1-3 While lin-4 is upregulated toward the end of the first larval stage and functions as an essential developmental timing “switch”, little is known about how lin-4 expression is regulated.4 Here we show that in C. elegans hypodermal seam cells, transcription of lin-4 is positively regulated by lin-4 itself. In these cells, lin-4 activates its own transcription through a conserved lin-4-complementary element (LCE) in its promoter. We further show that lin-4 is required to recruit RNA polymerase II to its own promoter, and that lin-4 overexpression is sufficient for autoactivation. Finally, we show that a protein complex specifically binds the LCE in vitro, and that mutations that abolish this binding also reduce the in vivo expression of a plin-4:GFP reporter. Thus, we describe the first in vivo evidence of RNA activation (RNAa) by an endogenous miRNA, and provide new insights into an elegant autoregulatory mechanism that ensures the proper timing of stem cell fate decisions in development.
lin-4; RNA activation; RNAa; heterochronic; miRNA; microRNA; seam cell; stem cell
Transcriptional regulation of microRNA (miRNA) expression is one of the least understood aspects of miRNA biogenesis. In C. elegans the list of miRNAs whose transcriptional control has been described in some detail is currently limited to four: let-7, lin-4, lsy-6, and mir-61. Each of these genes has been shown experimentally to be transcriptionaly regulated by cis- and/or trans-acting factors that either promote or inhibit expression. Additionally, computational methods based on conservation among miRNA genes have yielded predicted regulatory sequences in C. elegans that may function to regulate miRNA expression on a genome-wide scale.
microRNA; miRNA; pri-miRNA; transcription; promoter; Pol II
Since their discovery not long ago, microRNAs (miRNAs) have been extensively studied in hundreds of laboratories around the world. Initially thought of as merely cytoplasmic repressors of mRNA expression, it has since become more apparent that they also play regulatory roles in the nucleus. A recent study published in Nature introduces novel concepts in both miRNA regulation and function by showing that the let-7 miRNA regulates its own expression.
The regulation of gene expression by non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) has become a new paradigm in biology. RNA-mediated gene silencing pathways have been studied extensively, revealing diverse epigenetic and posttranscriptional mechanisms. In contrast, the roles of ncRNAs in activating gene expression remains poorly understood. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge of gene activation by small RNAs, long non-coding RNAs, and enhancer-derived RNAs, with an emphasis on epigenetic mechanisms.
transcriptional activation; saRNA; RNAa; non-coding RNA; eRNA; lincRNA; epigenetic; enhancer
Radiotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that utilizes the ability of ionizing radiation to induce cell inactivation and cell death, generally via inflicting DNA double-strand breaks. However, different tumors and their normal surrounding tissues are not equally sensitive to radiation, posing a major challenge in the field: to seek out factors that influence radiosensitivity. In this review, we summarize the evidence for microRNA (miRNA) involvement in the radioresponse and discuss their potential as radiosensitizers. MicroRNAs are endogenous small, noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally, influencing many processes including, as highlighted here, cellular sensitivity to radiation. Profiling studies demonstrate that miRNA expression levels change in response to radiation, while certain miRNAs, when overexpressed or knocked down, alter radiosensitivity. Finally, we discuss specific miRNA-target pairs that affect response to radiation and DNA damage as good potential targets for modulating radioresponsitivity.
The let-7 microRNA (miRNA) regulates cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation in the C. elegans heterochronic gene pathway. Low expression of let-7 results in retarded vulva and hypodermal cell development in C. elegans and has been associated with several human cancers. Previously, the versatile scaffold protein receptor for activated C kinase 1 (RACK1) was proposed to facilitate recruitment of the miRNA-induced silencing complex (miRISC) to the polysome and to be required for miRNA function in C. elegans and humans. Here, we show that depletion of C. elegans RACK-1 by RNAi increases let-7 miRNA levels and suppresses the retarded terminal differentiation of lateral hypodermal seam cells in mutants carrying the hypomorphic let-7(n2853) allele or lacking the let-7 family miRNA genes mir-48 and mir-241. Depletion of RACK-1 also increases the levels of precursor let-7 miRNA. When Dicer is knocked down and pre-miRNA processing is inhibited, depletion of RACK-1 still leads to increased levels of pre-let-7, suggesting that RACK-1 affects a biogenesis mechanism upstream of Dicer. No changes in the activity of the let-7 promoter or the levels of primary let-7 miRNA are associated with depletion of RACK-1, suggesting that RACK-1 affects let-7 miRNA biogenesis at the post-transcriptional level. Interestingly, rack-1 knockdown also increases the levels of a few other precursor miRNAs. Our results reveal that RACK-1 controls the biogenesis of a subset of miRNAs, including let-7, and in this way plays a role in the heterochronic gene pathway during C. elegans development.
Caenorhabditis elegans; let-7; microRNA; RACK1; heterochronic
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, and current therapies fail to treat this disease in the vast majority of cases. The RAS and p53 pathways are two of the most frequently altered pathways in lung cancers, with such alterations resulting in loss of responsiveness to current therapies and decreased patient survival. The microRNA-34 (mir-34) gene family members are downstream transcriptional targets of p53, and miR-34 expression is reduced in p53 mutant tumors; thus, we hypothesized that treating mutant Kras;p53 tumors with miR-34 would represent a powerful new therapeutic to suppress lung tumorigenesis. To this end we examined the therapeutically resistant KrasLSL-G12D/+;Trp53LSL-R172H/+ mouse lung cancer model. We characterized tumor progression in these mice following lung-specific transgene activation and found tumors as early as 10 weeks post-activation, and severe lung inflammation by 22 weeks. Tumors harvested from these lungs have elevated levels of oncogenic miRNAs miR-21 and miR-155; are deficient for p53-regulated miRNAs; and have heightened expression of miR-34 target genes, such as Met and Bcl-2. In the presence of exogenous miR-34, epithelial cells derived from these tumors show reduced proliferation and invasion. In vivo treatment with miR-34a prevented tumor formation and progression in KrasLSL-G12D/+;Trp53LSL-R172H/+ mice. Animals infected with mir-34a-expressing lentivirus at the same time as transgene activation had little to no evidence of tumorigenesis, and lentivirus-induced miR-34a also prevented further progression of pre-formed tumors. These data support the use of miR-34 as a lung tumor-preventative and tumor-static agent.
miRNA; lung cancer; therapy; Kras; p53; in vivo
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) were first discovered in genetic screens for regulators of developmental timing in the stem-cell-like seam cell lineage in Caenorhabditis elegans. As members of the heterochronic pathway, the lin-4 and let-7 miRNAs are required in the seam cells for the correct progression of stage-specific events and to ensure that cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation occur at the correct time. Other heterochronic genes such as lin-28 and lin-41 are direct targets of the lin-4 and let-7 miRNAs. Recent findings on the functions of the let-7 and lin-4/mir-125 miRNA families and lin-28 and lin-41 orthologs from a variety of organisms suggest that core elements of the heterochronic pathway are retained in mammalian stem cells and development. In particular, these genes appear to form bistable switches via double-negative feedback loops in both nematode and mammalian stem cell development, the functional relevance of which is finally becoming clear. let-7 inhibits stem cell self-renewal in both normal and cancer stem cells of the breast and acts as a tumor suppressor in lung and breast cancer. let-7 also promotes terminal differentiation at the larval to adult transition in both nematode stem cells and fly wing imaginal discs and inhibits proliferation of human lung and liver cancer cells. Conversely, LIN-28 is a highly specific embryonic stem cell marker and is one of four “stemness” factors used to reprogram adult fibroblasts into induced pluripotent stem cells; furthermore, lin-28 is oncogenic in hepatocellular carcinomas. Therefore, a core module of heterochronic genes—lin-28, lin-41, let-7, and lin-4/mir-125—acts as an ancient regulatory switch for differentiation in stem cells (and in some cancers), illustrating that nematode seam cells mirror miRNA regulatory networks in mammalian stem cells during both normal development and cancer.
Originally discovered in C. elegans, microRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that regulate fundamental cellular processes in diverse organisms. MiRNAs are encoded within the genome and are initially transcribed as primary transcripts that can be several kilobases in length. Primary transcripts are successively cleaved by two RNase III enzymes, Drosha in the nucleus and Dicer in the cytoplasm, to produce ~70 nucleotide (nt) long precursor miRNAs and 22 nt long mature miRNAs, respectively. Mature miRNAs regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally by imperfectly binding target mRNAs in association with the multiprotein RNA induced silencing complex (RISC). The conserved sequence, expression pattern, and function of some miRNAs across distinct species as well as the importance of specific miRNAs in many biological pathways have led to an explosion in the study of miRNA biogenesis, miRNA target identification, and miRNA target regulation. Many advances in our understanding of miRNA biology have come from studies in the powerful model organism C. elegans. This chapter reviews the current methods used in C. elegans to study miRNA biogenesis, small RNA populations, miRNA–protein complexes, and miRNA target regulation.
In normal cells multiple microRNAs (miRNAs) converge to maintain a proper balance of various processes, including proliferation, differentiation and cell death. miRNA dysregulation can have profound cellular consequences, especially because individual miRNAs can bind to and regulate multiple mRNAs. In cancer, the loss of tumour-suppressive miRNAs enhances the expression of target oncogenes, whereas increased expression of oncogenic miRNAs (known as oncomirs) can repress target tumour suppressor genes. This realization has resulted in a quest to understand the pathways that are regulated by these miRNAs using in vivo model systems, and to comprehend the feasibility of targeting oncogenic miRNAs and restoring tumour-suppressive miRNAs for cancer therapy. Here we discuss progress in using mouse models to understand the roles of miRNAs in cancer and the potential for manipulating miRNAs for cancer therapy as these molecules make their way towards clinical trials.
miR-155 is a prominent microRNA (miRNA) that regulates genes involved in immunity and cancer-related pathways. miR-155 is overexpressed in lung cancer, which correlates with poor patient prognosis. It is unclear how miR-155 becomes increased in lung cancers and how this increase contributes to reduced patient survival. Here, we show that hypoxic conditions induce miR-155 expression in lung cancer cells and trigger a corresponding decrease in a validated target, FOXO3A. Furthermore, we find that increased levels of miR-155 radioprotects lung cancer cells, while inhibition of miR-155 radiosensitizes these cells. Moreover, we reveal a therapeutically important link between miR-155 expression, hypoxia, and irradiation by demonstrating that anti-miR-155 molecules also sensitize hypoxic lung cancer cells to irradiation. Our study helps explain how miR-155 becomes elevated in lung cancers, which contain extensive hypoxic microenvironments, and demonstrates that inhibition of miR-155 may have important therapeutic potential as a means to radiosensitize hypoxic lung cancer cells.
microRNAs; miR-155; hypoxia; radiosensitizer; lung cancer
While microRNAs (miRNAs) and the KRAS oncogene are known to be dysregulated in various cancers, little is known about the role of miRNAs in the regulation of KRAS in cancer. Here we review a selection of studies published in 2014 that have contributed to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of KRAS regulation by miRNAs and the clinical relevance of sequence variants that may interfere with functional miRNA-mediated KRAS regulation.
microRNA (miRNA); KRAS; Cancer; Sequence variant; Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP); KRAS-variant; rs61764370; rs712
Primary squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina is an uncommon disease that often exhibits few symptoms before reaching an advanced stage. Topical intravaginal therapies for resolving precancerous and cancerous vaginal lesions have the potential to be non-invasive and safer alternatives to existing treatment options. Two factors limit the testing of this approach: lack of a preclinical intravaginal tumor model and absence of safe and effective topical delivery systems. In this study, we present both an inducible genetic model of vaginal squamous cell carcinoma in mice and a novel topical delivery system. Tumors were generated via activation of oncogenic K-Ras and inactivation of tumor suppressor Pten in LSL-K-RasG12D/+
PtenloxP/loxP mice. This was accomplished by exposing the vaginal epithelium to a recombinant adenoviral vector expressing Cre recombinase (AdCre). As early as 3 weeks after AdCre exposure exophytic masses protruding from the vagina were observed; these were confirmed to be squamous cell carcinoma by histology. We utilized this model to investigate an anticancer therapy based on poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) nanoparticles loaded with camptothecin (CPT); our earlier work has shown that PLGA nanoparticles can penetrate the vaginal epithelium and provide sustained CPT release. Particles were lavaged into the vaginal cavity of AdCre-infected mice. None of the mice receiving CPT nanoparticles developed tumors. These results demonstrate a novel topical strategy to resolve precancerous and cancerous lesions in the female reproductive tract.
Drug delivery; Polymer nanoparticles; Inducible tumor model; Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma; Camptothecin; KRAS; PTEN
Comment on: Cirera-Salinas D, et al. Cell Cycle 2012; 11:922–33
Dysregulation of microRNAs (miRNAs), particularly their downregulation, has been widely shown to be associated with the development of lung cancer. Downregulation of miRNAs leads to the overactivation of their oncogene targets, while upregulation of some miRNAs leads to inhibition of important tumor suppressors. Research has implicated cigarette smoke in miRNA dysregulation, leading to carcinogenesis. Cigarette smoke may lead to genetic or epigenetic damage to miRNAs, many of which map to fragile sites and some of which contain single nucleotide polymorphisms. Cigarette smoke may also cause dysregulation by affecting regulatory mechanisms controlling miRNA expression. Researchers have shown a correlation between smoke-exposure-induced dysregulation of miRNAs and age. Furthermore, dysregulation seems to be associated with intensity and duration of smoke exposure and duration of cessation. Longer exposure at a threshold level is needed for irreversibility of changes in expression. Better understanding of miRNA dysregulation may allow for improved biomonitoring and treatment regimens for lung cancer.
It has long been understood that many of the same manipulations that increase longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans also increase resistance to various acute stressors, and vice-versa; moreover these findings hold in more complex organisms as well. Nevertheless, the mechanistic relationship between these phenotypes remains unclear, and in many cases the overlap between stress resistance and longevity is inexact. Here we review the known connections between stress resistance and longevity, discuss instances in which these connections are absent, and summarize the theoretical explanations that have been posited for these phenomena.
Motivation: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play a crucial role in tumorigenesis and development through their effects on target genes. The characterization of miRNA–gene interactions will lead to a better understanding of cancer mechanisms. Many computational methods have been developed to infer miRNA targets with/without expression data. Because expression datasets are in general limited in size, most existing methods concatenate datasets from multiple studies to form one aggregated dataset to increase sample size and power. However, such simple aggregation analysis results in identifying miRNA–gene interactions that are mostly common across datasets, whereas specific interactions may be missed by these methods. Recent releases of The Cancer Genome Atlas data provide paired expression profiling of miRNAs and genes in multiple tumors with sufficiently large sample size. To study both common and cancer-specific interactions, it is desirable to develop a method that can jointly analyze multiple cancers to study miRNA–gene interactions without combining all the data into one single dataset.
Results: We developed a novel statistical method to jointly analyze expression profiles from multiple cancers to identify miRNA–gene interactions that are both common across cancers and specific to certain cancers. The benefit of this joint analysis approach is demonstrated by both simulation studies and real data analysis of The Cancer Genome Atlas datasets. Compared with simple aggregate analysis or single sample analysis, our method can effectively use the shared information among different but related cancers to improve the identification of miRNA–gene interactions. Another useful property of our method is that it can estimate similarity among cancers through their shared miRNA–gene interactions.
Availability and implementation: The program, MCMG, implemented in R is available at http://bioinformatics.med.yale.edu/group/.
In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the let-7 microRNA (miRNA) controls the timing of key developmental events and terminal differentiation in part by directly regulating lin-41. C. elegans lin-41 mutants display precocious cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation of epidermal skin cells. lin-41 orthologues are found in more complex organisms including both mice and humans, but their roles are not known. We generated Mlin41 mouse mutants to ascertain a functional role for Mlin41. Strong loss of function Mlin41 gene-trap mutants demonstrated a striking neural tube closure defect during development, and embryonic lethality. Like C. elegans lin-41, Mlin41 also appears to be regulated by the let-7 and mir-125 miRNAs. Since Mlin41 is required for neural tube closure and survival it points to human lin-41 (HLIN41/TRIM71) as a potential human development and disease gene.
microRNA; let-7; mir-125; mlin41; lin-41; mouse; knock-out; development; cell cycle
In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the let-7 microRNA (miRNA) and its family members control the timing of key developmental events in part by directly regulating expression of hunchback-like-1 (hbl-1). C. elegans hbl-1 mutants display multiple developmental timing deficiencies, including cell cycle defects during larval development. While hbl-1 is predicted to encode a transcriptional regulator, downstream targets of HBL-1 have not been fully elucidated. Here we report using microarray analysis to uncover genes downstream of HBL-1. We established a transgenic strain that overexpresses hbl-1 under the control of a heat shock promoter. Heat shock-induced hbl-1 overexpression led to retarded hypodermal structures at the adult stage, opposite to the effect seen in loss of function (lf) hbl-1 mutants. The microarray screen identified numerous potential genes that are upregulated or downregulated by HBL-1, including sym-1, which encodes a leucine-rich repeat protein with a signal sequence. We found an increase in sym-1 transcription in the heat shock-induced hbl-1 overexpression strain, while loss of hbl-1 function caused a decrease in sym-1 expression levels. Furthermore, we found that sym-1(lf) modified the hypodermal abnormalities in hbl-1 mutants. Given that SYM-1 is a protein secreted from hypodermal cells to the surrounding cuticle, we propose that the adult-specific cuticular structures may be under the temporal control of HBL-1 through regulation of sym-1 transcription.
Caenorhabditis elegans; developmental timing; hbl-1; heterochronic genes; let-7; microarray; microRNA
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are noncoding RNAs that regulate numerous target genes through a posttranscriptional mechanism and thus control major developmental pathways. The phylogenetically conserved let-7 miRNA regulates cell proliferation and differentiation, thus functioning as a key regulator of developmental timing in C. elegans and a tumor suppressor gene in humans. Using a reverse genetic screen, we have identified genetic interaction partners of C. elegans let-7, including known and novel potential target genes. Initial identification of several translation initiation factors as suppressors of a let-7 mutation led us to systematically examine genetic interaction between let-7 and the translational machinery, which we found to be widespread. In the presence of wild-type let-7, depletion of the translation initiation factor eIF3 resulted in precocious cell differentiation, suggesting that developmental timing is translationally regulated, possibly by let-7. As overexpression of eIF3 in humans promotes translation of mRNAs that are also targets of let-7-mediated repression, we suggest that eIF3 may directly or indirectly oppose let-7 activity. This might provide an explanation for the opposite functions of let-7 and eIF3 in regulating tumorigenesis.
miRNA; let-7; translation factor; heterochronic; C. elegans; RNAi; eIF3; eIF6
Targeted therapeutic approaches have seen tremendous advances in the last decade, for good reason. Specifically intervening with a disease-causing gene can revert the deleterious phenotype while eliminating the toxicity often associated with broad-spectrum agents. Unfortunately, because these selective agents hit one target in a single location, acquired resistance is often high. An arguably better treatment approach includes coupling multiple targeted agents or using an agent that hits an individual target in several independent locations and/or alters multiple relevant targets in the disease-causing pathway(s), precisely the approach taken by George Calin, Anil Snood, and colleagues in their recent report aimed at identifying a better treatment option for ovarian cancer (1).
Once considered genetic “oddities”, microRNAs (miRNAs)
are now recognized as key epigenetic regulators of numerous biological
processes, including some with a causal link to the pathogenesis, maintenance,
and treatment of cancer. The crux of small RNA-based therapeutics lies in the
antagonism of potent cellular targets; the main shortcoming of the field in
general, lies in ineffective delivery. Inhibition of oncogenic miRNAs is a
relatively nascent therapeutic concept, but as with predecessor RNA-based
therapies, success hinges on delivery efficacy. This review will describe the
canonical (e.g. pharmacokinetics and clearance, cellular uptake, endosome
escape, etc.) and non-canonical (e.g. spatial localization and accessibility of
miRNA, technical limitations of miRNA inhibition, off-target impacts, etc.)
challenges to the delivery of antisense-based anti-miRNA therapeutics (i.e.
antimiRs) for the treatment of cancer. Emphasis will be placed on how the
current leading antimiR platforms—ranging from naked chemically modified
oligonucleotides to nanoscale delivery vehicles—are affected by and
overcome these barriers. The perplexity of antimiR delivery presents both
engineering and biological hurdles that must be overcome in order to capitalize
on the extensive pharmacological benefits of antagonizing tumor-associated
antimiR; cancer therapy; chemical modification; microRNA inhibition; liposome; polymer nanoparticle; oligonucleotide; oncomiR; therapeutics; tumor targeting