MicroRNA cluster 221-222 and estrogen receptor alpha interactions in breast cancer.


Several lines of evidence have suggested that estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha)-negative breast tumors, which are highly aggressive and nonresponsive to hormonal therapy, arise from ERalpha-positive precursors through different molecular pathways. Because microRNAs (miRNAs) modulate gene expression, we hypothesized that they may have a role in ER-negative tumor formation.

Gene expression profiles were used to highlight the global changes induced by miRNA modulation of ERalpha protein. miRNA transfection and luciferase assays enabled us to identify new targets of miRNA 206 (miR-206) and miRNA cluster 221-222 (miR-221-222). Northern blot, luciferase assays, estradiol treatment, and chromatin immunoprecipitation were performed to identify the miR-221-222 transcription unit and the mechanism implicated in its regulation.

Different global changes in gene expression were induced by overexpression of miR-221-222 and miR-206 in ER-positive cells. miR-221 and -222 increased proliferation of ERalpha-positive cells, whereas miR-206 had an inhibitory effect (mean absorbance units [AU]: miR-206: 500 AU, 95% confidence interval [CI]) = 480 to 520; miR-221: 850 AU, 95% CI = 810 to 873; miR-222: 879 AU, 95% CI = 850 to 893; P < .05). We identified hepatocyte growth factor receptor and forkhead box O3 as new targets of miR-206 and miR-221-222, respectively. We demonstrated that ERalpha negatively modulates miR-221 and -222 through the recruitment of transcriptional corepressor partners: nuclear receptor corepressor and silencing mediator of retinoic acid and thyroid hormone receptor.

These findings suggest that the negative regulatory loop involving miR-221-222 and ERalpha may confer proliferative advantage and migratory activity to breast cancer cells and promote the transition from ER-positive to ER-negative tumors.

  • Alder H
  • Croce CM
  • Di Leva G
  • Garofalo M
  • Gasparini P
  • Iorio MV
  • Li M
  • Liu Y
  • Nakamura T
  • Nephew KP
  • Ngankeu A
  • Nuovo G
  • Piovan C
  • Taccioli C
  • Volinia S
PubMed ID
Appears In
J Natl Cancer Inst, 2010, 102 (10)