MicroRNA-7 functions as an anti-metastatic microRNA in gastric cancer by targeting insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor

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Metastasis is a major clinical obstacle in the treatment of gastric cancer (GC) and it accounts for the majority of cancer-related mortality. MicroRNAs have recently emerged as regulators of metastasis by acting on multiple signaling pathways. In this study, we found that miR-7 is significantly downregulated in highly metastatic GC cell lines and metastatic tissues. Both gain-of-function and loss-of-function experiments showed that increased miR-7 expression significantly reduced GC cell migration and invasion, whereas decreased miR-7 expression dramatically enhanced cell migration and invasion. in vivo metastasis assays also demonstrated that overexpression of miR-7 markedly inhibited GC metastasis. Moreover, the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor (IGF1R) oncogene, which is often mutated or amplified in human cancers and functions as an important regulator of cell growth and tumor invasion, was identified as a direct target of miR-7. Silencing of IGF1R using small interefering RNA (siRNA) recapitulated the anti-metastatic function of miR-7, whereas restoring the IGF1R expression attenuated the function of miR-7 in GC cells. Furthermore, we found that suppression of Snail by miR-7, through targeting IGF1R, increased E-cadherin expression and partially reversed the epithelial- mesenchymal transition (EMT). Finally, analyses of miR-7 and IGF1R levels in human primary GC with matched lymph node metastasis tissue arrays revealed that miR-7 is inversely correlated with IGF1R expression. The present study provides insight into the specific biological behavior of miR-7 in EMT and tumor metastasis. Targeting this novel miR-7/IGF1R/Snail axis would be helpful as a therapeutic approach to block GC metastasis.

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