The transcriptional regulation of miR-21, its multiple transcripts, and their implication in prostate cancer

Judit Ribas, Shawn E Lupold
Cell Cycle 2010 March 1, 9 (5): 923-9
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a natural part of the most recently discovered and global regulatory pathway known as RNA interference. Functional studies have shown how specific miRNAs can function as tumor suppressors or oncogenes and, correspondingly, deregulated miRNA profiles have been observed in prostate and other cancers. However, the upstream pathways which regulate miRNA expression are only currently being uncovered. The Androgen Receptor (AR) is a nuclear hormone receptor and transcription factor which plays a paramount role in prostate cancer (PCa) pathobiology. We performed high throughput miRNA microarray analysis on two AR-responsive cell lines to identified 16 candidate AR-regulated miRNAs.(1) One of the most androgen-induced candidates was a known oncogenic miRNA, miR-21. In a small study of early grade PCa samples we found that miR-21 levels were frequently elevated in comparison to adjacent normal tissue. This observation was supported in the literature(2,3) and suggests clinical relevance. We found that the activated AR directly interacts with miR-21 regulatory regions, indicating direct transcriptional induction. Furthermore, we provide new reporter studies supporting AR-regulation. Importantly, in functional studies, we found that a modest overexpression of miR-21 enhanced tumor xenograft growth and was sufficient to support androgen-independent proliferation following surgical castration. Thus, our studies suggest a model where miR-21 contributes to androgen-dependent and androgen-independent PCa growth. However, the AR is only one of many reported transcriptional regulators of miR-21. Here we review our recent discoveries and further analyze the reported miR-21 regulatory regions, inhibitory and stimulatory signaling pathways, and primary transcripts.

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