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Cancer Res. 2008 Jul 1;68(13):5049-58. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-6655.

Methylation mediated silencing of MicroRNA-1 gene and its role in hepatocellular carcinogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, College of Pharmacy, and Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


MicroRNAs (miR) are a class of small ( approximately 21 nucleotide) noncoding RNAs that, in general, negatively regulate gene expression. Some miRs harboring CGIs undergo methylation-mediated silencing, a characteristic of many tumor suppressor genes. To identify such miRs in liver cancer, the miRNA expression profile was analyzed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines treated with 5-azacytidine (DNA hypomethylating agent) and/or trichostatin A (histone deacetylase inhibitor). The results showed that these epigenetic drugs differentially regulate expression of a few miRs, particularly miR-1-1, in HCC cells. The CGI spanning exon 1 and intron 1 of miR-1-1 was methylated in HCC cell lines and in primary human HCCs but not in matching liver tissues. The miR-1-1 gene was hypomethylated and activated in DNMT1-/- HCT 116 cells but not in DNMT3B null cells, indicating a key role for DNMT1 in its methylation. miR-1 expression was also markedly reduced in primary human hepatocellular carcinomas compared with matching normal liver tissues. Ectopic expression of miR-1 in HCC cells inhibited cell growth and reduced replication potential and clonogenic survival. The expression of FoxP1 and MET harboring three and two miR-1 cognate sites, respectively, in their respective 3'-untranslated regions, was markedly reduced by ectopic miR-1. Up-regulation of several miR-1 targets including FoxP1, MET, and HDAC4 in primary human HCCs and down-regulation of their expression in 5-AzaC-treated HCC cells suggest their role in hepatocarcinogenesis. The inhibition of cell cycle progression and induction of apoptosis after re-expression of miR-1 are some of the mechanisms by which DNA hypomethylating agents suppress hepatocarcinoma cell growth.

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