Ovarian cancer patients frequently develop resistance to chemotherapy regiments using Taxol and carboplatin. One of the resistance factors that protects cancer cells from Taxol-based therapy is multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1). micro(mi)RNAs are small noncoding RNAs that negatively regulate protein expression. Members of the let-7 family of miRNAs are downregulated in many human cancers, and low let-7 expression has been correlated with resistance to microtubule targeting drugs (Taxanes), although little is known that would explain this activity. We now provide evidence that, although let-7 is not a universal sensitizer of cancer cells to Taxanes, it affects acquired resistance of cells to this class of drugs by targeting IMP-1, resulting in destabilization of the mRNA of MDR1. Introducing let-7g into ADR-RES cells expressing both IMP-1 and MDR1 reduced expression of both proteins rendering the cells more sensitive to treatment with either Taxol or vinblastine without affecting the sensitivity of the cells to carboplatin, a non-MDR1 substrate. This effect could be reversed by reintroducing IMP-1 into let-7g high/MDR1 low cells causing MDR1 to again become stabilized. Consistently, many relapsed ovarian cancer patients tested before and after chemotherapy were found to downregulate let-7 and to co-upregulate IMP-1 and MDR1, and the increase in the expression levels of both proteins after chemotherapy negatively correlated with disease-free time before recurrence. Our data point at IMP-1 and MDR1 as indicators for response to therapy, and at IMP-1 as a novel therapeutic target for overcoming multidrug resistance of ovarian cancer.
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