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.
- Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research