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Oncotarget. 2013 Sep;4(9):1399-415.

Repression of c-Kit by p53 is mediated by miR-34 and is associated with reduced chemoresistance, migration and stemness.

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Experimental and Molecular Pathology, Institute of Pathology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University München, D-80337 Munich, Germany.


The c-Kit receptor tyrosine kinase is commonly over-expressed in different types of cancer. p53 activation is known to result in the down-regulation of c-Kit. However, the underlying mechanism has remained unknown. Here, we show that the p53-induced miR-34 microRNA family mediates repression of c-Kit by p53 via a conserved seed-matching sequence in the c-Kit 3'-UTR. Ectopic miR-34a resulted in a decrease in Erk signaling and transformation, which was dependent on the down-regulation of c-Kit expression. Furthermore, ectopic expression of c-Kit conferred resistance of colorectal cancer (CRC) cells to treatment with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), whereas ectopic miR-34a sensitized the cells to 5-FU. After stimulation with c-Kit ligand/stem cell factor (SCF) Colo320 CRC cells displayed increased migration/invasion, whereas ectopic miR-34a inhibited SCF-induced migration/invasion. Activation of a conditional c-Kit allele induced several stemness markers in DLD-1 CRC cells. In primary CRC samples elevated c-Kit expression also showed a positive correlation with markers of stemness, such as Lgr5, CD44, OLFM4, BMI-1 and β-catenin. On the contrary, activation of a conditional miR-34a allele in DLD-1 cells diminished the expression of c-Kit and several stemness markers (CD44, Lgr5 and BMI-1) and suppressed sphere formation. MiR-34a also suppressed enhanced sphere-formation after exposure to SCF. Taken together, our data establish c-Kit as a new direct target of miR-34 and demonstrate that this regulation interferes with several c-Kit-mediated effects on cancer cells. Therefore, this regulation may be potentially relevant for future diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

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