The EMBO journal

miR-200/375 control epithelial plasticity-associated alternative splicing by repressing the RNA-binding protein Quaking.

PMID 29871889


Members of the miR-200 family are critical gatekeepers of the epithelial state, restraining expression of pro-mesenchymal genes that drive epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and contribute to metastatic cancer progression. Here, we show that miR-200c and another epithelial-enriched miRNA, miR-375, exert widespread control of alternative splicing in cancer cells by suppressing the RNA-binding protein Quaking (QKI). During EMT, QKI-5 directly binds to and regulates hundreds of alternative splicing targets and exerts pleiotropic effects, such as increasing cell migration and invasion and restraining tumour growth, without appreciably affecting mRNA levels. QKI-5 is both necessary and sufficient to direct EMT-associated alternative splicing changes, and this splicing signature is broadly conserved across many epithelial-derived cancer types. Importantly, several actin cytoskeleton-associated genes are directly targeted by both QKI and miR-200c, revealing coordinated control of alternative splicing and mRNA abundance during EMT These findings demonstrate the existence of a miR-200/miR-375/QKI axis that impacts cancer-associated epithelial cell plasticity through widespread control of alternative splicing.