MicroRNA-based classification of hepatocellular carcinoma and oncogenic role of miR-517a

Gastroenterology. 2011 May;140(5):1618-28.e16. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.02.009. Epub 2011 Feb 13.


Background & aims: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a heterogeneous tumor that develops via activation of multiple pathways and molecular alterations. It has been a challenge to identify molecular classes of HCC and design treatment strategies for each specific subtype. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in HCC pathogenesis, and their expression profiles have been used to classify cancers. We analyzed miRNA expression in human HCC samples to identify molecular subclasses and oncogenic miRNAs.

Methods: We performed miRNA profiling of 89 HCC samples using a ligation-mediated amplification method. Subclasses were identified by unsupervised clustering analysis. We identified molecular features specific for each subclass using expression pattern (Affymetrix U133 2.0; Affymetrix, Santa Clara, CA), DNA change (Affymetrix STY Mapping Array), mutation (CTNNB1), and immunohistochemical (phosphor[p]-protein kinase B, p-insulin growth factor-IR, p-S6, p-epidermal growth factor receptor, β-catenin) analyses. The roles of selected miRNAs were investigated in cell lines and in an orthotopic model of HCC.

Results: We identified 3 main clusters of HCCs: the wingless-type MMTV integration site (32 of 89; 36%), interferon-related (29 of 89; 33%), and proliferation (28 of 89; 31%) subclasses. A subset of patients with tumors in the proliferation subclass (8 of 89; 9%) overexpressed a family of poorly characterized miRNAs from chr19q13.42. Expression of miR-517a and miR-520c (from ch19q13.42) increased proliferation, migration, and invasion of HCC cells in vitro. MiR-517a promoted tumorigenesis and metastatic dissemination in vivo.

Conclusions: We propose miRNA-based classification of 3 subclasses of HCC. Among the proliferation class, miR-517a is an oncogenic miRNA that promotes tumor progression. There is rationale for developing therapies that target miR-517a for patients with HCC.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / classification*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Disease Progression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / classification*
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • MIRN517 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Neoplasm