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Cancer Res. 2018 Oct 9. pii: canres.1886.2018. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-1886. [Epub ahead of print]

A p53-responsive microRNA network promotes cancer cell quiescence.

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School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle.
Translational Research Institute, Henan Provincial People's Hospital.
Oncology and Immunology Unit, Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital.
Research and Innovation, University of Newcastle.
School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle.
Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle.
Biomedical Sciences and Phamacy, University of Newcastle.
Histone Modification Group, Children's Cancer Institute Australia.
Cancer Research Unit, School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Newcastle.
School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle
Faculty of Medicine and Public Health, The University of Newcastle.


Cancer cells in quiescence (G0 phase) are resistant to death, and re-entry of quiescent cancer cells into the cell cycle plays an important role in cancer recurrence. Here we show that two p53-responsive microRNAs (miRNAs) utilize distinct but complementary mechanisms to promote cancer cell quiescence by facilitating stabilization of p27. Purified quiescent B16 mouse melanoma cells expressed higher levels of miRNA-27b-3p and miRNA-455-3p relative to their proliferating counterparts. Induction of quiescence resulted in increased levels of these miRNAs in diverse types of human cancer cell lines. Inhibition of miRNA-27b-3p or miRNA-455-3p reduced, whereas its overexpression increased, the proportion of quiescent cells in the population, indicating that these miRNAs promote cancer cell quiescence. Accordingly, cancer xenografts bearing miRNA-27b-3p or miRNA-455-3p mimics were retarded in growth. miRNA-27b-3p targeted cyclin-dependent kinase regulatory subunit 1 (CKS1B), leading to reduction in p27 polyubiquitination mediated by S-phase kinase-associated protein 2 (Skp2). miRNA-455-3p targeted CDK2-associated cullin domain 1 (CACUL1), which enhanced CDK2-mediated phosphorylation of p27 necessary for its polyubiquitination. Of note, the gene encoding miRNA-27b-3p was embedded in the intron of the chromosome 9 open reading frame 3 gene that was transcriptionally activated by p53. Similarly, the host gene of miRNA-455-3p, collagen alpha-1 chain, was also a p53 transcriptional target. Collectively, our results identify miRNA-27b-3p and miRNA-455-3p as important regulators of cancer cell quiescence in response to p53 and suggest that manipulating miRNA-27b-3p and miRNA-455-3p may constitute novel therapeutic avenues for improving outcomes of cancer treatment.

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