Breast cancer remains one of the leading causes of cancer mortality among women. It has been proved that the onset of cancer depends on a very small pool of tumor cells with a phenotype similar to that of normal adult stem cells. Cancer stem cells (CSC) possess self-renewal and multilineage differentiation potential as well as a robust ability to sustain tumorigenesis. Evidence suggests that CSCs contribute to chemotherapy resistance and to survival under hypoxic conditions. Interestingly, hypoxia in turn regulates self-renewal in CSCs and these effects may be primarily mediated by hypoxic inducible factors (HIFs). Recently, microRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as critical players in the maintenance of pluripotency and self-renewal in normal and cancer stem cells. Here, we demonstrate that miR-24 is upregulated in breast CSCs and that its overexpression increases the number of mammospheres and the expression of stem cell markers. MiR-24 also induces apoptosis resistance through the regulation of BimL expression. Moreover, we identify a new miR-24 target, FIH1, which promotes HIFα degradation: miR-24 increases under hypoxic conditions, causing downregulation of FIH1 and upregulation of HIF1α. In conclusion, miR-24 hampers chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in breast CSCs and increases cell resistance to hypoxic conditions through an FIH1-HIFα pathway.
- Journal Article