MiR-377 targets E2F3 and alters the NF-kB signaling pathway through MAP3K7 in malignant melanoma

Liron Zehavi, Hagit Schayek, Jasmine Jacob-Hirsch, Yechezkel Sidi, Raya Leibowitz-Amit, Dror Avni
Molecular Cancer 2015 March 26, 14: 68

BACKGROUND: The incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma continues to rise, and once the disease metastasizes it is almost inevitably fatal. We recently reported that a large miRNAs cluster on human chromosome 14q32, implicated in many types of cancers, is significantly down-regulated in melanoma. miR-377, one of the miRNAs located within this cluster, was studied here.

METHODS: qRT-pCR was used to quantify miR-377 levels in melanoma cell lines and samples. Melanoma cell lines ectopically expressing miR-377 were generated by stable transfection, mRNA expression was assessed using mRNA arrays and protein expression was assessed by Western blot analysis. Potential targets of miR-377 were identified through luciferase reporter assays. Cellular proliferation, migration and soft-agar colony formation were monitored in control and miR-377-expressing cells using cell biology techniques.

RESULTS: miR-377 is expressed in normal melanocytes but not in melanoma cell lines or samples. Its ectopic stable expression in melanoma cell lines decreased their proliferative and migratory capacity and their colony-forming capability. mRNA arrays of melanoma cells over-expressing miR-377 pointed to several down-regulated mRNAs that have putative binding sites for miR-377 in their 3'UTR, of which both E2F3 and MAP3K7 were found to be direct targets of miR-377. E2F3, a potent transcriptional inducer of cell-cycle progression, was found to be elevated in melanoma cell lines, but decreased following ectopic expression of miR-377. Ectopic miR-377 also led to a decrease in the activity of a reporter plasmid containing three E2F DNA-binding sites linked to a luciferase cDNA sequence, demonstrating that miR-377 down-regulates E2F3-induced transcription. MAP3K7 (known as TAK1), a serine/threonine kinase along the MAPK signaling pathway, was over-expressed in melanoma but decreased following ectopic expression of miR-377. MAP3K7 is involved in the activation of NF-κB. MiR-377 over-expression led to decreased activity of a reporter plasmid containing two NF-κB DNA-binding sites and to decreased output along the NF-kB signaling pathway.

CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that miR-377 is an important negative regulator of E2F and MAP3K7/NF-kB signaling pathway in melanoma cells; it is tempting to speculate that its silencing in melanoma promotes the tumorigenic and metastatic potential of the cells through activation of these pathways.

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