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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 16;105(50):19678-83. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0811166106. Epub 2008 Dec 9.

MicroRNA regulation of a cancer network: consequences of the feedback loops involving miR-17-92, E2F, and Myc.

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  • 1Mathematical Biosciences Institute, Ohio State University,1735 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


The transcription factors E2F and Myc participate in the control of cell proliferation and apoptosis, and can act as oncogenes or tumor suppressors depending on their levels of expression. Positive feedback loops in the regulation of these factors are predicted-and recently shown experimentally-to lead to bistability, which is a phenomenon characterized by the existence of low and high protein levels ("off" and "on" levels, respectively), with sharp transitions between levels being inducible by, for example, changes in growth factor concentrations. E2F and Myc are inhibited at the posttranscriptional step by members of a cluster of microRNAs (miRs) called miR-17-92. In return, E2F and Myc induce the transcription of miR-17-92, thus forming a negative feedback loop in the interaction network. The consequences of the coupling between the E2F/Myc positive feedback loops and the E2F/Myc/miR-17-92 negative feedback loop are analyzed using a mathematical model. The model predicts that miR-17-92 plays a critical role in regulating the position of the off-on switch in E2F/Myc protein levels, and in determining the on levels of these proteins. The model also predicts large-amplitude protein oscillations that coexist with the off steady state levels. Using the concept and model prediction of a "cancer zone," the oncogenic and tumor suppressor properties of miR-17-92 is demonstrated to parallel the same properties of E2F and Myc.

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