To sustain tumor growth, cancer cells must be able to adapt to fluctuations in energy availability. We have identified a single microRNA that controls glioma cell proliferation, migration, and responsiveness to glucose deprivation. Abundant glucose allows relatively high miR-451 expression, promoting cell growth. In low glucose, miR-451 levels decrease, slowing proliferation but enhancing migration and survival. This allows cells to survive metabolic stress and seek out favorable growth conditions. In glioblastoma patients, elevated miR-451 is associated with shorter survival. The effects of miR-451 are mediated by LKB1, which it represses through targeting its binding partner, CAB39 (MO25 alpha). Overexpression of miR-451 sensitized cells to glucose deprivation, suggesting that its downregulation is necessary for robust activation of LKB1 in response to metabolic stress. Thus, miR-451 is a regulator of the LKB1/AMPK pathway, and this may represent a fundamental mechanism that contributes to cellular adaptation in response to altered energy availability.
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