MicroRNAs are involved in the self-renewal and differentiation of cancer stem cells

Zheng-ming Wang, Wen-jun Du, Gary A Piazza, Yaguang Xi
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica 2013, 34 (11): 1374-80
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules, whose primary function is to regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional/translational levels. MiRNAs play crucial roles in normal biological processes and are commonly dys-regulated in human diseases. Stem cells are regarded as the "mother" cells of all types of differentiated cells that comprise tissues and organs of the body. A novel hypothesis proposes that tumors are composed of heterogeneous cells derived from cancer stem cells, which have self-renewal and differentiation capabilities similar to those of normal stem cells. Cancer stem cells have been isolated and characterized from various tumors. Given recent studies supporting the critical regulatory roles of miRNAs in the self-renewal and differentiation of cancer stem cells, better understanding the functions of miRNAs will provide invaluable insights into the prevention of tumorigenesis and tumor progression. In this review, we will summarize the research progress in the study of miRNAs involved in the self-renewal and differentiation of cancer stem cells.

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