MiR-221 controls CDKN1C/p57 and CDKN1B/p27 expression in human hepatocellular carcinoma

F. Fornari, L. Gramantieri, M. Ferracin, A. Veronese, S. Sabbioni, G. A. Calin, G. L. Grazi, C. Giovannini, C. M. Croce, L. Bolondi, M. Negrini

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The identification of target mRNAs is a key step for assessing the role of aberrantly expressed microRNAs in human cancer. MiR-221 is upregulated in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) as well as in other malignancies. One proven target of miR-221 is CDKN1B/p27, whose downregulation affects HCC prognosis. Here, we proved that the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor (CDKI) CDKN1C/p57 is also a direct target of miR-221. Indeed, downregulation of both CDKN1B/p27 and CDKN1C/p57 occurs in response to miR-221 transfection into HCC-derived cells and a significant upregulation of both CDKN1B/p27 and CDKN1C/p57 occurs in response to antimiR-221 transfection. A direct interaction of miR-221 with a target site on the 3′ UTR of CDKN1C/p57 mRNA was also demonstrated. By controlling these two CDKIs, upregulation of miR-221 can promote growth of HCC cells by increasing the number of cells in S-phase. To assess the relevance of these studies in primary tumors, matched HCC and cirrhosis samples were assayed for miR-221, for CDKN1B/p27 and CDKN1C/p57 expression. MiR-221 was upregulated in 71% of HCCs, whereas CDKN1B/p27 and CDKN1C/p57 proteins were downregulated in 77% of cases. A significant inverse correlation between miR-221 and both CDKN1B/p27 and CDKN1C/p57 was found in HCCs. In conclusion, we suggest that miR-221 has an oncogenic function in hepatocarcinogenesis by targeting CDKN1B/p27 and CDKN1C/p57, hence promoting proliferation by controlling cell-cycle inhibitors. These findings establish a basis toward the development of therapeutic strategies aimed at blocking miR-221 in HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5651-5661
Number of pages11
Issue number43
Publication statusPublished - Sep 25 2008


  • Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors
  • HCC
  • microRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics


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