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Oncogene. 2017 Jun 15;36(24):3477-3489. doi: 10.1038/onc.2016.499. Epub 2017 Jan 23.

The miR-487b-3p/GRM3/TGFβ signaling axis is an important regulator of colon cancer tumorigenesis.

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Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.
Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.
Department of Pathology and Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.
Department of Internal Medicine Oncology/Hematology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.


Molecular targeting is an import strategy to treat advanced colon cancer. The current study demonstrates that expression of GRM3, a metabotropic glutamate receptor mainly expressed in mammalian central nervous system, is significantly upregulated in majority of human colonic adenocarcinomas tested and colon cancer cell lines. Knockdown of GRM3 expression or inhibition of GRM3 activation in colon cancer cells reduces cell survival and anchorage-independent growth in vitro and inhibits tumor growth in vivo. Mechanistically, GRM3 antagonizes TGFβ-mediated activation of protein kinase A and inhibition of Protein kinase B (AKT). In addition, TGFβ signaling increases GRM3 protein stability and knockdown of GRM3 enhances TGFβ-mediated tumor suppressor function. Further studies indicate that miR-487b-3p directly targets GRM3. Overexpression of miR-487b-3p mimics the effects of GRM3 knockdown and suppresses the tumorigenicity of colon cancer cells in vivo. Expression of miR-487b-3p is decreased in colon adenocarcinomas and inversely correlates with GRM3 expression. Taken together, these studies indicate that upregulation of GRM3 expression is a functionally important molecular event in colon cancer, and that GRM3 is a promising molecular target for colon cancer treatment. This is particularly interesting and important from a therapeutic standpoint because numerous metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonists are available, many of which have been found unsuitable for treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders for reasons such as inability to readily penetrate blood brain barriers. As GRM3 is upregulated in colon cancer, but rarely expressed in normal peripheral tissues, targeting GRM3 with such agents would not likely cause adverse neurological or peripheral side effects, making GRM3 an attractive and specific molecular target for colon cancer treatment.

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