Short loop-targeting oligoribonucleotides antagonize Lin28 and enable pre-let-7 processing and suppression of cell growth in let-7-deficient cancer cells

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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) originate from stem-loop-containing precursors (pre-miRNAs, pri-miRNAs) and mature by means of the Drosha and Dicer endonucleases and their associated factors. The let-7 miRNAs have prominent roles in developmental differentiation and in regulating cell proliferation. In cancer, the tumor suppressor function of let-7 is abrogated by overexpression of Lin28, one of several RNA-binding proteins that regulate let-7 biogenesis by interacting with conserved motifs in let-7 precursors close to the Dicer cleavage site. Using in vitro assays, we have identified a binding site for short modified oligoribonucleotides (‘looptomirs’) overlapping that of Lin28 in pre-let-7a-2. These looptomirs selectively antagonize the docking of Lin28, but still permit processing of pre-let-7a-2 by Dicer. Looptomirs restored synthesis of mature let-7 and inhibited growth and clonogenic potential in Lin28 overexpressing hepatocarcinoma cells, thereby demonstrating a promising new means to rescue defective miRNA biogenesis in Lin28-dependent cancers.

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