Cholesterol-conjugated let-7a mimics: antitumor efficacy on hepatocellular carcinoma in vitro and in a preclinical orthotopic xenograft model of systemic therapy

Yang Ming Liu, Yu Xia, Wei Dai, Hua Ye Han, Yu Xue Dong, Jiong Cai, Xuan Zeng, Feng Yu Luo, Tao Yang, Yuan Zhi Li, Jie Chen, Jian Guan
BMC Cancer 2014 November 28, 14: 889

BACKGROUND: A major challenge to the clinical utility of let-7 for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) therapy is the lack of an effective carrier to target tumours. We confirmed the high transfection efficiency of cholesterol-conjugated let-7a miRNA mimics (Chol-let-7a) in human HCC cells, as well as their high affinity for liver tissue in nude mice. However, their antitumor efficacy via systemic delivery remains unknown.

METHODS: We explored the effects of Chol-let-7a on HCC in vitro and in vivo. Cell viability and mobility, let-7a abundance and the target ras genes was measured. Live-cell image and cell ultrastructure was observed. Antitumor efficacy in vivo was analyzed by ultrasonography, hispatholgogy and transmission electronic microscopy in a preclinical model of HCC orthotopic xenografts with systemic therapy.

RESULTS: Chol-let-7a inhibited the viability and mobility of HCC cells. Chol-let-7a was primarily observed in the cytoplasm and induced organelle changes, including autophagy. Mild changes were observed in the cells treated with negative control miRNA. Chol-let-7a reached HCC orthotopic tumours, significantly inhibited tumour growth, and prevented local invasion and metastasis. Compared to control tumours, Chol-let-7a-treated tumours showed more necrosis. Tumour cells showed no significant atypia, and mitoses were very rare after systemic Chol-let-7a therapy. Furthermore, let-7a abundance in orthotopic xenografts was coincident with a reduction in the expression of 3 human ras mRNAs and RAS proteins.

CONCLUSIONS: Chol-let-7a exerted significant antitumor effects by down-regulating all human ras genes at the transcriptional and translational levels. Chol-let-7a inhibited cell proliferation, growth, and metastasis, and mainly functioned in the cytoplasm. Chol-let-7a represents a potential useful modified molecule for systemic HCC therapy.


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