MicroRNA 376c enhances ovarian cancer cell survival by targeting activin receptor-like kinase 7: implications for chemoresistance

Gang Ye, Guodong Fu, Shiying Cui, Sufen Zhao, Stefanie Bernaudo, Yin Bai, Yanfang Ding, Yaou Zhang, Burton B Yang, Chun Peng
Journal of Cell Science 2011 February 1, 124: 359-68
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that have important roles in gene regulation. We have previously reported that activin receptor-like kinase 7 (ALK7) and its ligand, Nodal, induce apoptosis in human epithelial ovarian cancer cells. In this study, we examined the regulation of ALK7 by miRNAs and demonstrate that miR-376c targets ALK7. Ectopic expression of miR-376c significantly increased cell proliferation and survival, enhanced spheroid formation and blocked Nodal-induced apoptosis. Interestingly, overexpression of miR-376c blocked cisplatin-induced cell death, whereas anti-miR-376c enhanced the effect of cisplatin. These effects of miR-376c were partially compensated by the overexpression of ALK7. Moreover, in serous carcinoma samples taken from ovarian cancer patients who responded well to chemotherapy, strong ALK7 staining and low miR-376c expression was detected. By contrast, ALK7 expression was weak and miR-376c levels were high in samples from patients who responded poorly to chemotherapy. Finally, treatment with cisplatin led to an increase in expression of mRNA encoding Nodal and ALK7 but a decrease in miR-376c levels. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the Nodal-ALK7 pathway is involved in cisplatin-induced cell death in ovarian cancer cells and that miR-376c enhances proliferation, survival and chemoresistance by targeting, at least in part, ALK7.

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