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Int J Cancer. 2011 Sep 1;129(5):1064-74. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25768. Epub 2011 Feb 11.

MicroRNA miR-196a controls melanoma-associated genes by regulating HOX-C8 expression.

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  • 1Institute of Pathology, University of Regensburg Medical School, Regensburg, Germany.


Resulting from a screening for microRNAs differentially regulated in melanocytes and melanoma cells, we found expression of miR-196a to be significantly down-regulated in malignant melanoma cell lines and tissue samples. As it was stated before that miR-196a might negatively regulate expression of the transcription factor HOX-C8, we analyzed HOX-C8 levels in NHEMs and melanoma cells and found a strong up-regulation of HOX-C8 expression in malignant melanoma cell lines and tissue samples compared with melanocytes. Several HOX-C8 target genes are known to be involved in processes such as oncogenesis, cell adhesion, proliferation and apoptosis. We, therefore, aimed to further investigate a potential "miR-196a → HOX-C8 → HOX-C8 target gene" relationship. Stable transfection with an miR-196a expression plasmid led to strong down-regulation of HOX-C8 expression in melanoma cells. Luciferase assays using reporter plasmids containing different fragments of the HOX-C8 3'UTR confirmed direct interactions of miR-196a with the HOX-C8 mRNA. Focusing on target genes of HOX-C8, which might play an important role in melanomagenesis, we identified three genes (cadherin-11, calponin-1 and osteopontin) that are up- or down-regulated, respectively, by altered HOX-C8 expression in miR-196a expressing cell clones and are thus indirectly regulated by this microRNA. As those target genes are closely related to important cellular mechanisms such as cell adhesion, cytoskeleton remodeling, tumor formation and invasive behavior of tumor cells, altered miR-196a expression exerts strong effects contributing to tumor cell transformation and formation and progression of malignant melanoma. This fact is underlined by a strongly reduced invasive behavior of melanoma cells re-expressing miR-196a in vitro.

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