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Mol Cancer. 2014 Aug 7;13:184. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-13-184.

miR-31 is consistently inactivated in EBV-associated nasopharyngeal carcinoma and contributes to its tumorigenesis.

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Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology, State Key Laboratory in Oncology in South China, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China.



As a distinctive type of head and neck cancers, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is genesis from the clonal Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-infected nasopharyngeal epithelial cells accumulated with multiple genetic lesions. Among the recurrent genetic alterations defined, loss of 9p21.3 is the most frequent early event in the tumorigenesis of EBV-associated NPC. In addition to the reported CDKN2A/p16, herein, we elucidated the role of a miRNA, miR-31 within this 9p21.3 region as NPC-associated tumor suppressor.


The expression and promoter methylation of miR-31 were assessed in a panel of NPC tumor lines and primary tumors. Its in vitro and in vivo tumor suppression function was investigated through the ectopic expression of miR-31 in NPC cells. We also determined the miR-31 targeted genes and its involvement in the growth in NPC.


Downregulation of miR-31 expression was detected in almost all NPC cell line, patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) and primary tumors. Both homozygous deletion and promoter hypermethylation were shown to be major mechanisms for miR-31 silencing in this cancer. Strikingly, loss of miR-31 was also obviously observed in the dysplastic lesions of nasopharynx. Restoration of miR-31 in C666-1 cells inhibited the cell proliferation, colony-forming and migratory capacities. Dramatic reduction of in vitro anchorage-independent growth and in vivo tumorigenic potential were demonstrated in the stable clones expressing miR-31. Furthermore, we proved that miR-31 suppressed the NPC cell growth via targeting FIH1 and MCM2.


The findings provide strong evidence to support miR-31 as a new NPC-associated tumor suppressor on 9p21.3 region. The inactivation of miR-31 may contribute to the early development of NPC.

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