Glucocorticoid-regulated microRNAs and mirtrons in acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Leukemia. 2009 Apr;23(4):746-52. doi: 10.1038/leu.2008.370. Epub 2009 Jan 15.


Glucocorticoids (GCs) induce apoptosis in lymphoid lineage cells and are therefore used in the therapy of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and related malignancies. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) and the related mirtrons are ~22 nucleotide RNAs derived from polymerase-II transcripts and implicated in the control of essential biological functions, including apoptosis. Whether GCs regulate miRNA-encoding transcription units is unknown. We investigated miRNA/mirtron expression and GC regulation in 8 leukemia/lymphoma in vitro models and 13 ALL children undergoing systemic GC monotherapy using a combination of expression profiling techniques, real time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR and northern blotting to detect mature miRNAs and/or their precursors. We found that mature miRNA regulations can be inferred from expression data of their host genes. Although a simple miRNA-initiated canonical pathway to GC-induced apoptosis or cell cycle arrest did not emerge, we identified several miRNAs/mirtrons that were regulated by GC in patients and cell lines, including the myeloid-specific miR-223 and the apoptosis and cell cycle arrest-inducing miR15 ~ 16 clusters. In an in vitro model, overexpression of miR15b ~ 16 mimics increased and silencing by miR15b ~ 16 inhibitors decreased GC sensitivity. Thus, the observed complex changes in miRNA/mirtron expression during GC treatment might contribute to the anti-leukemic GC effects in a cell context-dependent manner.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Polymerase II / genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic / drug effects*
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / analysis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger


  • Glucocorticoids
  • MIRN15 microRNA, human
  • MIRN16 microRNA, human
  • MIRN223 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • DNA Polymerase II