miR-200b induces cell cycle arrest and represses cell growth in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

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miR-200b is a pleiotropically acting microRNA in cancer progression, representing an attractive therapeutic target. We previously identified miR-200b as an invasiveness repressor in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), whereas further understanding is warranted to establish it as a therapeutic target. Here, we show that miR-200b mitigates ESCC cell growth by inducing G2-phase cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. The expression/activation of multiple key cell cycle regulators such as CDK1, CDK2, CDK4 and Cyclin B, and the Wnt/β-Catenin signaling are modulated by miR-200b. We identified CDK2 and PAF (PCNA-associated factor), two important tumor-promoting factors, as direct miR-200b targets in ESCC. Correlating with the frequent loss of miR-200b in ESCC, both CDK2 and PAF levels are significantly increased in ESCC tumors compared to case-matched normal tissues (n = 119, both P < 0.0001), and correlate with markedly reduced survival (P = 0.007 and P = 0.041, respectively). Furthermore, CDK2 and PAF are also associated with poor prognosis in certain subtypes of breast cancer (n = 1802) and gastric cancer (n = 233). Although CDK2 could not significantly mediate the biological function of miR-200b, PAF siRNA knockdown phenocopied while restored expression of PAF abrogated the biological effects of miR-200b on ESCC cells. Moreover, PAF was revealed to mediate the inhibitory effects of miR-200b on Wnt/β-Catenin signaling. Collectively, the pleiotropic effects of miR-200b in ESCC highlight its potential for therapeutic intervention in this aggressive disease.

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