miR-331-3p is involved in glucocorticoid resistance reversion by rapamycin through suppression of the MAPK signaling pathway

Marianna Lucafò, Daria Sicari, Andrea Chicco, Debora Curci, Arianna Bellazzo, Alessia Di Silvestre, Chiara Pegolo, Robert Autry, Erika Cecchin, Sara De Iudicibus, Licio Collavin, William Evans, Giuliana Decorti, Gabriele Stocco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glucocorticoids (GCs) are commonly used as therapeutic agents for immune-mediated diseases and leukemia. However, considerable inter-individual differences in efficacy have been reported. Several reports indicate that the inhibitor of mTOR rapamycin can reverse GC resistance, but the molecular mechanism involved in this synergistic effect has not been fully defined. In this context, we explored the differential miRNA expression in a GC-resistant CCRF-CEM cell line after treatment with rapamycin alone or in co-treatment with methylprednisolone (MP). The expression analysis identified 70, 99 and 96 miRNAs that were differentially expressed after treatment with MP, rapamycin and their combination compared to non-treated controls, respectively. Two pathways were exclusively altered as a result of the co-treatment: the MAPK and ErbB pathways. We validated the only miRNA upregulated specifically by the co-treatment associated with the MAPK signaling, miR-331-3p. Looking for miR-331-3p targets, MAP2K7, an essential component of the JNK/MAPK pathway, was identified. Interestingly, MAP2K7 expression was downregulated during the co-treatment, causing a decrease in terms of JNK activity. miR-331-3p in mimic-transfected cells led to a significant decrease in MAP2K7 levels and promoted the reversion of GC resistance in vitro. Interestingly, miR-331-3p expression was also associated with GC-resistance in patient leukemia cells taken at diagnosis. The combination of rapamycin with MP restores GC effectiveness through the regulation of different miRNAs, suggesting the important role of these pharmacoepigenetic factors in GC response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-374
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Glucocorticoids
  • miRNA
  • Pharmacoepigenetics
  • Rapamycin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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