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Cancer Res. 2007 Dec 15;67(24):11612-20.

Altered MicroRNA expression confined to specific epithelial cell subpopulations in breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a new class of short noncoding regulatory RNAs (18-25 nucleotides) that are involved in diverse developmental and pathologic processes. Altered miRNA expression has been associated with several types of human cancer. However, most studies did not establish whether miRNA expression changes occurred within cells undergoing malignant transformation. To obtain insight into miRNA deregulation in breast cancer, we implemented an in situ hybridization (ISH) method to reveal the spatial distribution of miRNA expression in archived formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded specimens representing normal and tumor tissue from >100 patient cases. Here, we report that expression of miR-145 and miR-205 was restricted to the myoepithelial/basal cell compartment of normal mammary ducts and lobules, whereas their accumulation was reduced or completely eliminated in matching tumor specimens. Conversely, expression of other miRNAs was detected at varying levels predominantly within luminal epithelial cells in normal tissue; expression of miR-21 was frequently increased, whereas that of let-7a was decreased in malignant cells. We also analyzed the association of miRNA expression with that of epithelial markers; prognostic indicators such as estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and HER2; as well as clinical outcome data. This ISH approach provides a more direct and informative assessment of how altered miRNA expression contributes to breast carcinogenesis compared with miRNA expression profiling in gross tissue biopsies. Most significantly, early manifestation of altered miR-145 expression in atypical hyperplasia and carcinoma in situ lesions suggests that this miRNA may have a potential clinical application as a novel biomarker for early detection.

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