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Epigenetics. 2014 Jan;9(1):129-41. doi: 10.4161/epi.26842. Epub 2013 Oct 22.

Epigenetic regulation of miR-21 in colorectal cancer: ITGB4 as a novel miR-21 target and a three-gene network (miR-21-ITGΒ4-PDCD4) as predictor of metastatic tumor potential.

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Laboratory of Signal Mediated Gene Expression; Institute of Biology, Medicinal Chemistry and Biotechnology; National Hellenic Research Foundation; Athens, Greece.
3rd Department of Surgery; General Hospital of Athens G. Gennimatas; Athens, Greece.


Previous studies have uncovered several transcription factors that determine biological alterations in tumor cells to execute the invasion-metastasis cascade, including the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We sought to investigate the role of miR-21 in colorectal cancer regulation. For this purpose, miR-21 expression was quantified in a panel of colorectal cancer cell lines and clinical specimens. High expression was found in cell lines with EMT properties and in the vast majority of human tumor specimens. We demonstrate in a cell-specific manner the occupancy of MIR-21 gene promoter by AP-1 and ETS1 transcription factors and, for the first time, the pattern of histone posttranslational modifications necessary for miR-21 overexpression. We also show that Integrin-β4 (ITGβ4), exclusively expressed in polarized epithelial cells, is a novel miR-21 target gene and plays a role in the regulation of EMT, since it is remarkably de-repressed after transient miR-21 silencing and downregulated after miR-21 overexpression. miR-21-dependent change of ITGβ4 expression significantly affects cell migration properties of colon cancer cells. Finally, in a subgroup of tumor specimens, ROC curve analysis performed on quantitative PCR data sets for miR-21, ITGβ4, and PDCD4 shows that the combination of high miR-21 with low ITGβ4 and PDCD4 expression is able to predict presence of metastasis. In conclusion, miR-21 is a key player in oncogenic EMT, its overexpression is controlled by the cooperation of genetic and epigenetic alterations, and its levels, along with ITGβ4 and PDCD4 expression, could be exploited as a prognostic tool for CRC metastasis.


ITGβ4; RAS; epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT); histone modifications; metastasis markers; miR-21

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