MiR-122 Targets SerpinB3 and Is Involved in Sorafenib Resistance in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Cristian Turato, Francesca Fornari, Daniela Pollutri, Matteo Fassan, Santina Quarta, Gianmarco Villano, Mariagrazia Ruvoletto, Luigi Bolondi, Laura Gramantieri, Patrizia Pontisso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The only first-line treatment approved for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is sorafenib. Since many patients experience drug resistance, the discovery of more effective therapeutic strategies represents an unmet clinical need. MicroRNA (MiR)-122 is downregulated in most HCCs, while oncogenic SerpinB3 is upregulated. Here, we assessed the relationship between miR-122 and SerpinB3 and their influence on cell phenotype and sorafenib resistance in HCC. A bioinformatics analysis identified SerpinB3 among hypothetical miR-122 targets. In SerpinB3-overexpressing HepG2 cells, miR-122 transfection decreased SerpinB3 mRNA and protein levels, whereas miR-122 inhibition increased SerpinB3 expression. Luciferase assay demonstrated the interaction between miR-122 and SerpinB3 mRNA. In an HCC rat model, high miR-122 levels were associated with negative SerpinB3 expression, while low miR-122 levels correlated with SerpinB3 positivity. A negative correlation between miR-122 and SerpinB3 or stem cell markers was found in HCC patients. Anti-miR-122 transfection increased cell viability in sorafenib-treated Huh-7 cells, while miR-122 overexpression increased sorafenib sensitivity in treated cells, but not in those overexpressing SerpinB3. In conclusion, we demonstrated that miR-122 targets SerpinB3, and its low levels are associated with SerpinB3 positivity and a stem-like phenotype in HCC. MiR-122 replacement therapy in combination with sorafenib deserves attention as a possible therapeutic strategy in SerpinB3-negative HCCs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2019


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