Apoptosis and the target genes of microRNA-21

Chin J Cancer. 2011 Jun;30(6):371-80. doi: 10.5732/cjc.011.10132.


MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) is frequently up-regulated in cancer and the majority of its reported targets are tumor suppressors. Through functional suppression, miR-21 is implicated in practically every walk of oncogenic life: the promotion of cell proliferation, invasion and metastasis, genome instability and mutation, inflammation, replicative immortalization, abnormal metabolism, angiogenesis, and evading apoptosis, immune destruction, and growth suppressors. In particular, miR-21 is strongly involved in apoptosis. In this article, we reviewed the experimentally validated targets of miR-21 and found that two thirds are linked to intrinsic and/or extrinsic pathways of cellular apoptosis. This suggests that miR-21 is an oncogene which plays a key role in resisting programmed cell death in cancer cells and that targeting apoptosis is a viable therapeutic option against cancers expressing miR-21.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Apoptosis*
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism*


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • MIRN21 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • PDCD4 protein, human
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase