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Cell Death Dis. 2013 Feb 28;4:e514. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2013.37.

MiR203 mediates subversion of stem cell properties during mammary epithelial differentiation via repression of ΔNP63α and promotes mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition.

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Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology, The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, NH, USA.


During reproductive life, the mammary epithelium undergoes consecutive cycles of proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. Doing so relies on the retained proliferative capacity, prolonged lifespan and developmental potency of mammary stem cells (MaSCs). ΔNp63α, the predominant TP63 isoform in mammary epithelia, is robustly expressed in MaSCs and is required for preservation of self-renewing capacity in diverse epithelial structures. However, the mechanism(s) underlying subversion of this activity during forfeiture of self-renewing capacity are poorly understood. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) govern critical cellular functions including stem cell maintenance, development, cell cycle regulation and differentiation by disrupting translation of target mRNAs. Data presented here indicate that expression of miR203, a miRNA that targets ΔNp63α and ΔNp63β is activated during luminal epithelial differentiation and that this pattern is observed in the murine mammary hierarchy. In addition, we present evidence that the transcription factor Zeb1 represses miR203 expression, thus enhancing ΔNp63α protein levels. Furthermore, ectopic miR203 suppresses ΔNp63α expression, proliferation and colony formation. The anti-clonogenic effects mediated by miR203 require suppression of ΔNp63α. In addition, ectopic miR203 promotes mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition and disrupts activities associated with epithelial stem cells. These studies support a model in which induction of miR203 mediates forfeiture of self-renewing capacity via suppression of ΔNp63α and may also have anti-tumorigenic activity through its reduction of EMT and cancer stem cell populations.

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