Background & aims: Micro-RNA (miRNA) are endogenous regulatory RNA molecules that modulate gene expression. Alterations in miRNA expression can contribute to tumor growth by modulating the functional expression of critical genes involved in tumor cell proliferation or survival. Our aims were to identify specific miRNA involved in the regulation of cholangiocarcinoma growth and response to chemotherapy.
Methods: miRNA expression in malignant and nonmalignant human cholangiocytes was assessed using a microarray. Expression of selected miRNA and their precursors was evaluated by Northern blots and real-time polymerase chain reaction, respectively. The effect of selected miRNA on cell growth and response to chemotherapy was assessed using miRNA-specific antisense oligonucleotides to decrease miRNA expression or with precursor miRNA to increase cellular expression.
Results: miRNA expression was markedly different in malignant cholangiocytes, with decreased expression of many miRNA compared with nonmalignant cells. A cluster of miRNA, including miR-320, miR-200b, miR-21, miR-23a, miR-141, miR-27a, and miR-34a, were expressed in all cell lines. MiR-21, miR-141, and miR-200b were highly over-expressed in malignant cholangiocytes. Inhibition of miR-21 and miR-200b increased sensitivity to gemcitabine, whereas inhibition of miR-141 decreased cell growth. Treatment of tumor cell xenografts with systemic gemcitabine altered the expression of a significant number of miRNA. miR-21 modulates gemcitabine-induced apoptosis by phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN)-dependent activation of PI 3-kinase signaling. Potential target genes that were modulated by selected miRNA were identified.
Conclusions: Alterations in miRNA expression contribute to tumor growth and response to chemotherapy. Aberrantly expressed miRNA or their targets will provide mechanistic insight and therapeutic targets for cholangiocarcinoma.