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Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 4;6:34034. doi: 10.1038/srep34034.

Up-regulation of miR-95-3p in hepatocellular carcinoma promotes tumorigenesis by targeting p21 expression.

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Key Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics of the Ministry of Education, College of Life Science and Technology and Center for Human Genome Research, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, P. R. China.
Center for Cardiovascular Genetics, Department of Molecular Cardiology, Cleveland Clinic; Department of Molecular Medicine/CCLCM, Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common malignant cancers. To elucidate new regulatory mechanisms for heptocarcinogenesis, we investigated the regulation of p21, a cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor encoded by CDKN1A, in HCC. The expression level of p21 is decreased with the progression of HCC. Luciferase assays with a luciferase-p21-3' UTR reporter and its serial deletions identified a 15-bp repressor element at the 3'-UTR of CDKN1A, which contains a binding site for miR-95-3p. Mutation of the binding site eliminated the regulatory effect of miR-95-3p on p21 expression. Posttranscriptional regulation of p21 expression by miR-95-3p is mainly on the protein level (suppression of translation). Overexpression of miR-95-3p in two different HCC cell lines, HepG2 and SMMC7721, significantly promoted cell proliferation, cell cycle progression and cell migration, whereas a miR-95-3p specific inhibitor decreased cell proliferation, cell cycle progression and cell migration. The effects of miR-95-3p on cellular functions were rescued by overexpression of p21. Overexpression of miR-95-3p promoted cell proliferation and tumor growth in HCC xenograft mouse models. Expression of miR-95-3p was significantly higher in HCC samples than in adjacent non-cancerous samples. These results demonstrate that miR-95-3p is a potential new marker for HCC and regulates hepatocarcinogenesis by directly targeting CDKN1A/p21 expression.

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