microRNA-129-5p, a c-Myc negative target, affects hepatocellular carcinoma progression by blocking the Warburg effect

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Deregulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) and c-Myc (Myc) contributes to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression, but how miRNAs and Myc regulate each other in hepatocarcinogenesis is still poorly understood. Using a functional screen, we identified miR-129-5p as a miRNA that inhibits HCC cell growth. miR-129-5p targets the mitochondrial matrix protein pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4), which leads to decreased phosphorylation of the E1α subunit of pyruvate dehyrogenase (PDH) complex, inhibition of glycolysis, retarded tumor growth, and impaired lung colonization. Enforced expression of PDK4 refractory to inhibition by miR-129-5p rescued all of these phenotypes. Targeting PDK4 by shRNA recapitulated the effects caused by miR-129-5p. miR-129-5p is transcriptionally repressed by a complex comprised of Myc, histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3), and enhancer of zeste 2 polycomb repressive complex 2 (EZH2). Levels of miR-129-5p negatively correlated with clinical stages in human HCC. Restoring miR-129-5p expression suppressed the diethylnitrosamine (DEN)-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in mice. Thus, we concluded that miR-129-5p, which is a negative target of Myc, blocks glycolysis to retard hepatocarcinogenesis via targeting PDK4. The critical link between miR-129-5p and PDK4 in the progression of HCC suggests potential points of therapeutic intervention for this disease.

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