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BMC Cancer. 2008 Sep 21;8:266. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-8-266.

Restoration of tumor suppressor miR-34 inhibits human p53-mutant gastric cancer tumorspheres.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Institute of Digestive Diseases, Xijing Hospital, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, Shaanxi 710032, PR China.



MicroRNAs (miRNAs), some of which function as oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes, are involved in carcinogenesis via regulating cell proliferation and/or cell death. MicroRNA miR-34 was recently found to be a direct target of p53, functioning downstream of the p53 pathway as a tumor suppressor. miR-34 targets Notch, HMGA2, and Bcl-2, genes involved in the self-renewal and survival of cancer stem cells. The role of miR-34 in gastric cancer has not been reported previously. In this study, we examined the effects of miR-34 restoration on p53-mutant human gastric cancer cells and potential target gene expression.


Human gastric cancer cells were transfected with miR-34 mimics or infected with the lentiviral miR-34-MIF expression system, and validated by miR-34 reporter assay using Bcl-2 3'UTR reporter. Potential target gene expression was assessed by Western blot for proteins, and by quantitative real-time RT-PCR for mRNAs. The effects of miR-34 restoration were assessed by cell growth assay, cell cycle analysis, caspase-3 activation, and cytotoxicity assay, as well as by tumorsphere formation and growth.


Human gastric cancer Kato III cells with miR-34 restoration reduced the expression of target genes Bcl-2, Notch, and HMGA2. Bcl-2 3'UTR reporter assay showed that the transfected miR-34s were functional and confirmed that Bcl-2 is a direct target of miR-34. Restoration of miR-34 chemosensitized Kato III cells with a high level of Bcl-2, but not MKN-45 cells with a low level of Bcl-2. miR-34 impaired cell growth, accumulated the cells in G1 phase, increased caspase-3 activation, and, more significantly, inhibited tumorsphere formation and growth.


Our results demonstrate that in p53-deficient human gastric cancer cells, restoration of functional miR-34 inhibits cell growth and induces chemosensitization and apoptosis, indicating that miR-34 may restore p53 function. Restoration of miR-34 inhibits tumorsphere formation and growth, which is reported to be correlated to the self-renewal of cancer stem cells. The mechanism of miR-34-mediated suppression of self-renewal appears to be related to the direct modulation of downstream targets Bcl-2, Notch, and HMGA2, indicating that miR-34 may be involved in gastric cancer stem cell self-renewal/differentiation decision-making. Our study suggests that restoration of the tumor suppressor miR-34 may provide a novel molecular therapy for p53-mutant gastric cancer.

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