The liver-specific microRNA-122*, the complementary strand of microRNA-122, acts as a tumor suppressor by modulating the p53/mouse double minute 2 homolog circuitry

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Abstract

The tumor suppressor p53 is a central regulator of signaling pathways that controls the cell cycle and maintains the integrity of the human genome. p53 level is regulated by mouse double minute 2 homolog (Mdm2), which marks p53 for proteasomal degradation. The p53-Mdm2 circuitry is subjected to complex regulation by a variety of mechanisms, including microRNAs (miRNAs). We found a novel effector of this regulatory circuit, namely, miR-122*, the passenger strand of the abundantly expressed liver-specific miR-122. Here, we demonstrate that miR-122* levels are reduced in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We found that miR-122* targets Mdm2, thus participating as an important player in the p53-Mdm2 circuitry. Moreover, we observed significant negative correlation between levels of miR-122* and Mdm2 in a large set of human HCC samples. In vivo tumorigenicity assays demonstrate that miR-122* is capable of inhibiting tumor growth, emphasizing the tumor-suppressor characteristics of this miRNA. Furthermore, we show that blocking miR-122 in murine livers with an antagomiR-122 (miRNA inhibitor) results in miR-122* accumulation, leading to Mdm2 repression followed by elevated p53 protein levels. Conclusion: miR-122*, the passenger strand of miR-122, regulates the activity of p53 by targeting Mdm2. Importantly, similarly to miR-122, miR-122* is significantly down-regulated in human HCC. We therefore propose that miR-122* is an important contributor to the tumor suppression activity previously attributed solely to miR-122. (Hepatology 2016;64:1623-1636)

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