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Oncotarget. 2012 Dec;3(12):1653-68.

Stress response of glioblastoma cells mediated by miR-17-5p targeting PTEN and the passenger strand miR-17-3p targeting MDM2.

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Sunnybrook Research Institute, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto.


Tumor development not only destroys the homeostasis of local tissues but also the whole body, and thus the tumor cells have to face the body's defense system, a shortage of nutrition and oxygen, and chemotherapeutic drug treatment. In response to these stresses, tumor cells often alter gene expression and microRNA levels to facilitate survival. We have demonstrated that glioblastoma cells deprived of nutrition or treated with chemotherapeutics drugs expressed increased levels of miR-17. Ectopic transfection of miR-17 prolonged glioblastoma cell survival when the cells were deprived with nutrition or treated with chemotherapeutic drugs. Expression of miR-17 also promoted cell motility, invasion, and tube-like structure formation. We found that these phenotypes were the results of miR-17 targeting PTEN. As a consequence, HIF1α and VEGF were up-regulated. Ectopic expression of miR-17 was found to facilitate enrichment of stem-like tumor cells, since the cells became drug-resistant, showed increased capacity to form colonies and neurospheres, and expressed higher levels of CD133, a phenotype similar to ectopic expression of HIF1α. To further confirm the phenotypic property of stem cells, we demonstrated that glioblastoma cells transfected with miR-17 proliferated slower in different nutritional conditions by facilitating more cells staying in the G1 phase than the control cells. Finally, we demonstrated that miR-17 could repress MDM2 levels, resulting in decreased cell proliferation and drug-resistance. Our results added a new layer of functional mechanism for the well-studied miRNA miR-17.

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