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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e50459. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050459. Epub 2012 Nov 30.

Relationship between circulating and tissue microRNAs in a murine model of breast cancer.

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  • 1Discipline of Surgery, School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.


MiRNAs are key regulators of tumorigenesis that are aberrantly expressed in the circulation and tissue of patients with cancer. The aim of this study was to determine whether miRNA dysregulation in the circulation reflected similar changes in tumour tissue. Athymic nude mice (n = 20) received either a mammary fat pad (n = 8, MFP), or subcutaneous (n = 7, SC) injection of MDA-MB-231 cells. Controls received no tumour cells (n = 5). Tumour volume was monitored weekly and blood sampling performed at weeks 1, 3 and 6 following tumour induction (total n = 60). Animals were sacrificed at week 6 and tumour tissue (n = 15), lungs (n = 20) and enlarged lymph nodes (n = 3) harvested. MicroRNAs were extracted from all samples (n = 98) and relative expression quantified using RQ-PCR. MiR-221 expression was significantly increased in tumour compared to healthy tissue (p<0.001). MiR-10b expression was significantly higher in MFP compared to SC tumours (p<0.05), with the highest levels detected in diseased lymph nodes (p<0.05). MiR-10b was undetectable in the circulation, with no significant change in circulating miR-221 expression detected during disease progression. MiR-195 and miR-497 were significantly decreased in tumour tissue (p<0.05), and also in the circulation of animals 3 weeks following tumour induction (p<0.05). At both tissue and circulating level, a positive correlation was observed between miR-497 and miR-195 (r = 0.61, p<0.001; r = 0.41, p<0.01 respectively). This study highlights the distinct roles of miRNAs in circulation and tissue. It also implicates miRNAs in disease dissemination and progression, which may be important in systemic therapy and biomarker development.

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