MiR-124 down-regulation is critical for cancer associated fibroblasts-enhanced tumor growth of oral carcinoma

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Cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are known to be involved in initiation, progression and metastasis of various cancers. However, the molecular mechanism of how CAFs affects the biological function of oral cancer (OC) has not been fully-addressed. In this study, we demonstrated that miR-124 was downregulated in oral CAFs and oral cancer cells (OCCs) when compared with matched normal fibroblasts (NFs). Hypermethylation in the promoter region of miR-124 genes was accounted for its downregulation. Interestingly, CAFs but not NFs exerted promotion effect on OCCs cell proliferation, migration and tumor growth in CAFs/NFs-OCCs co-culture. Furthermore, we identified Chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2) and Interleukin 8 (IL-8) as two direct targets of miR-124. Over-expression of miR-124 in CAFs-OCCs co-culture abrogated CAFs-promoted OCCs cell growth and migration, and this inhibitory effect can be rescued by addition of CCL2 and IL-8. Finally, we showed that restoration of miR-124 expression by lentiviral infection or formulated miR-124 injection inhibited oral tumor growth in vivo suggesting miR-124 rescue could be a potential rationale for therapeutic applications in oral cancer in the future.

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