Phytochemical Regulation of the Tumor Suppressive microRNA, miR-34a, by p53-Dependent and Independent Responses in Human Breast Cancer Cells

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The tumor suppressive microRNA miR-34a is transcriptionally regulated by p53 and shown to inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation as well as being a marker of increased disease free survival. Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) derived from cruciferous vegetables, artemisinin, extracted from the sweet wormwood plant, and artesunate, a semi-synthetic derivative of artemisinin, are phytochemicals with anti-tumorigenic properties however, little is known about the role of microRNAs in their mechanism of action. Human breast cancer cells expressing wild-type (MCF-7) or mutant p53 (T47D) were treated with a concentration range and time course of each phytochemical under conditions of cell cycle arrest as detected by flow cytometry to examine the potential connection between miR-34a expression and their anti-proliferative responses. Real-time PCR and western blot analysis of extracted RNA and total protein revealed artemsinin and artesunate increased miR-34a expression in a dose-dependent manner correlating with down-regulation of the miR-34a target gene, CDK4. I3C stimulation of miR-34a expression required functional p53, whereas, both artemisinin and artesunate up-regulated miR-34a expression regardless of p53 mutational status or in the presence of dominant negative p53. Phytochemical treatments inhibited the luciferase activity of a construct containing the wild-type 3′UTR of CDK4, but not those with a mutated miR-34a binding site, whereas, transfection of miR-34a inhibitors ablated the phytochemical mediated down-regulation of CDK4 and induction of cell cycle arrest. Our results suggest that miR-34a is an essential component of the anti-proliferative activities of I3C, artemisinin, and artesunate and demonstrate that both wild-type p53 dependent and independent pathways are responsible for miR-34a induction. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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