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miR-18a inhibits CDC42 and plays a tumour suppressor role in colorectal cancer cells.

PloS one (2014-11-08)
Karen J Humphreys, Ross A McKinnon, Michael Z Michael

The miR-17-92 cluster of microRNAs is elevated in colorectal cancer, and has a causative role in cancer development. Of the six miR-17-92 cluster members, miR-19a and b in particular are key promoters of cancer development and cell proliferation, while preliminary evidence suggests that miR-18a may act in opposition to other cluster members to decrease cell proliferation. It was hypothesised that miR-18a may have a homeostatic function in helping to contain the oncogenic effect of the entire miR-17-92 cluster, and that elevated miR-17-92 cluster activity without a corresponding increase in miR-18a may promote colorectal tumour progression. In colorectal cancer samples and corresponding normal colorectal mucosa, miR-18a displayed lower overall expression than other miR-17-92 cluster members. miR-18a was shown to have an opposing role to other miR-17-92 cluster members, in particular the key oncogenic miRNAs, miR-19a and b. Transfection of HCT116 and LIM1215 colorectal cancer cell lines with miR-18a mimics decreased proliferation, while a miR-18a inhibitor increased proliferation. miR-18a was also responsible for decreasing cell migration, altering cell morphology, inducing G1/S phase cell cycle arrest, increasing apoptosis, and enhancing the action of a pro-apoptotic agent. CDC42, a mediator of the PI3K pathway, was identified as a novel miR-18a target. Overexpression of miR-18a reduced CDC42 expression, and a luciferase assay confirmed that miR-18a directly targets the 3'UTR of CDC42. miR-18a mimics had a similar effect on proliferation as a small molecule inhibitor of CDC42. Inhibition of CDC42 expression is likely to be a key mechanism by which miR-18a impairs cancer cell growth, with a target protector experiment revealing miR-18a influences proliferation via direct inhibition of CDC42. Inhibition of CCND1 by miR-18a may also assist in this growth-suppression effect. The homeostatic function of miR-18a within the miR-17-92 cluster in colorectal cancer cells may be achieved through suppression of CDC42 and the PI3K pathway.

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