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Toxicol Lett. 2011 Jan 15;200(1-2):46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2010.10.013. Epub 2010 Oct 28.

Circulating microRNAs, possible indicators of progress of rat hepatocarcinogenesis from early stages.

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Environmental Health Science Laboratory, Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd., 1-98, 3-Chome, Kasugade-Naka, Konohana-ku, Osaka 554-8558, Japan.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression at the posttranscriptional level, are believed promising biomarkers for several diseases as well as a novel target of drugs, including cancer. In particular, miRNAs might allow detection of early stages of carcinogenesis. The present study was conducted to provide concrete evidence using chemical-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in rat as a model. We thereby observed aberrant fluctuation of circulating miRNAs in the serum of rats not only with neoplastic lesions such as hepatocellular adenoma (HCA) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but also with preneoplastic lesions, such as foci of hepatocellular alteration (FHA). Additional qRT-PCR analysis revealed gradual elevation of some circulating miRNAs (i.e., let-7a, let-7f, miR-34a, miR-98, miR-331, miR-338 and miR-652) with progress of hepatocarcinogenesis. Interestingly, increased levels of let-7a, let-7f and miR-98 were statistically significant even in the serum of rats at very early stages. These findings provide the first evidences that circulating miRNAs have the potential to predict carcinogenesis at earlier stages, preneoplastic lesions than with previous biomarkers and that they might be utilized to monitor the progress of tumor development.

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