The feedback loop between miR-124 and TGF-β pathway plays a significant role in non-small cell lung cancer metastasis

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Increasing evidence shows that micro RNAs (miRNAs) play a critical role in tumor development. However, the role of miRNAs in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) metastasis remains largely unknown. Here, we found that miR-124 expression was significantly impaired in NSCLC tissues and associated with its metastasis. In vitro and in vivo experiments indicate that restoring miR-124 expression in NSCLC cells had a marked effect on reducing cell migration, invasion and metastasis. Mechanistic analyses show that Smad4, a cobinding protein in transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) pathway, was identified as a new target gene of miR-124. Restoring Smad4 expression in miR-124-infected cells could partially rescue miR-124-induced abolition of cell migration and invasion. Notably, upon TGF-β stimulation, phosphorylation of Smad2/3 was modulated by alteration of miR-124 or Smad4 expression, followed by inducing some special transcription of downstream genes including Snail, Slug and ZEB2, all of which may trigger epithelial–mesenchymal transition and be associated with NSCLC metastasis. Moreover, activation of TGF-β pathway may enhance expression of DNMT3a, leading to hypermethylation on miR-124 promoter. Therefore, heavily loss of miR-124 expression further enhances Smad4 level by this feedback loop. Taken together, our data show for the first time that the feedback loop between miR-124 and TGF-β pathway may play a significant role in NSCLC metastasis. Targeting the loop may prove beneficial to prevent metastasis and provide a more effective therapeutic strategy for NSCLC.

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