miR-338-3p confers 5-fluorouracil resistance in p53 mutant colon cancer cells by targeting the mammalian target of rapamycin

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Evidence demonstrate that p53 mutations and microRNAs (miRs) are important components of 5-FU resistance in colorectal cancer (CRC). miR-338-3p has been reported associated with cancer prognosis. However whether or not it influences chemotherapy sensitivity and the underlying mechanisms have not been elucidated. Here, three types of human colon cancer cell lines, HT29 (mutant p53), HCT116 (wild-type p53), and HCT116 p53-/- (deficient p53), were treated with 5-FU. We showed that expression of miR-338-3p was correlated with apoptosis and 5-FU resistance in colon cancer cells. Ectopic expression of miR-338-3p conferred resistance to 5-FU in HCT116 cells. Further experiments indicated that miR-338-3p mediated 5-FU resistance through down-regulation of mTOR expression. Moreover, inhibition of miR-338-3p in HT29 and HCT116 p53-/- cells increased their sensitivity to 5-FU treatment. Furthermore, we detected autophagy changes in our experiment because mTOR was known prominently regulating autophagy and the competition between autophagy and apoptosis in response to 5-FU was a mechanism influencing 5-FU sensitivity. Our results reveal a critical and novel role of miR-338-3p in the correlation of 5-FU resistance with p53 status. Moreover, the miR-338-3p inhibitor has the potential to overcome 5-FU resistance in p53 mutant colon cancer cells.

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