MicroRNAs (miRNAs), noncoding RNAs 21-25 nucleotides in length, regulate gene expression primarily at the posttranscriptional level. Growing evidence suggests that miRNAs are aberrantly expressed in many human cancers, and that they play significant roles in carcinogenesis and cancer progression. A search for miRNAs with a tumor-suppressive function in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) was performed using the miRNA expression signatures obtained from ESCC clinical specimens. A subset of 15 miRNAs was significantly downregulated in ESCC. A comparison of miRNA signatures from ESCC and our previous report identified 4 miRNAs that are downregulated in common (miR-145, miR-30a-3p, miR-133a and miR-133b), suggesting that these miRNAs are candidate tumor suppressors. Gain-of-function analysis revealed that 3 transfectants (miR-145, miR-133a and miR-133b) inhibit cell proliferation and cell invasion in ESCC cells. These miRNAs (miR-145, miR-133a and miR-133b), which have conserved sequences in the 3'UTR of FSCN1 (actin-binding protein, Fascin homolog 1), inhibited FSCN1 expression. The signal from a luciferase reporter assay was significantly decreased at 2 miR-145 target sites and 1 miR-133a/b site, suggesting both miRNAs directly regulate FSCN1. An FSCN1 loss-of-function assay found significant cell growth and invasion inhibition, implying an FSCN1 is associated with ESCC carcinogenesis. The identification of tumor-suppressive miRNAs, miR-145, miR-133a and miR-133b, directly control oncogenic FSCN1 gene. These signal pathways of ESCC could provide new insights into potential mechanisms of ESCC carcinogenesis.
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