MicroRNA-221 targets Bmf in hepatocellular carcinoma and correlates with tumor multifocality

Laura Gramantieri, Francesca Fornari, Manuela Ferracin, Angelo Veronese, Silvia Sabbioni, George Adrian Calin, Gian Luca Grazi, Carlo Maria Croce, Luigi Bolondi, Massimo Negrini

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Deregulated cell proliferation and apoptosis play a major role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). MicroRNAs participate in the modulation of key molecules linked to hepatocarcinogenesis. Purpose: This study aims to investigate the role of miR-221 in the modulation of Bmf, a proapoptotic BH3-only protein, and to characterize miR-221 contribution to hepatocarcinogenesis through modulation of apoptosis. Experimental Design: Transfection of miR-221 and anti-miR-221 in HCC-derived cell lines and luciferase reporter assay were used to assess Bmf as a target of miR-221. Modulation of miR-221 and Bmf expression contributed to characterize their role in anoikis. Primary HCC tissues were analyzed to assess the clinical relevance of in vitro findings. Results: Enforced miR-221 expression caused Bmf down-regulation, whereas anti-miR-221 induced its up-regulation. A luciferase reporter assay confirmed Bmf as a target of miR-221. Following matrix detachment, miR-221 silencing led to increased apoptotic cell death. The analysis of HCC tissues revealed an inverse correlation between miR-221 and Bmf expression and a direct correlation between Bmf and activated caspase-3, as a marker of apoptosis. High miR-221 levels were associated with tumor multifocality and reduced time to recurrence after surgery. Conclusions: Our results indicate that miR-221, by targeting Bmf, inhibits apoptosis. Moreover, in HCC, miR-221 overexpression is associated with a more aggressive phenotype. These findings, together with the previously reported modulation of CDKN1B/p27 and CDKN1C/p57, show that miR-221 simultaneously affects multiple pro-oncogenic pathways and suggest miR-221 as a potential target for nonconventional treatment against HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5073-5081
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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