MicroRNAs-221 and -222 are highly upregulated in several solid tumors, including melanomas. We demonstrate that the proto-oncogene ETS-1, involved in the pathogenesis of cancers of different origin, is a transcriptional regulator of miR-222 by direct binding to its promoter region. Differently from 293FT cells or early stage melanomas, where unphosphorylated ETS-1 represses miR-222 transcription, in metastatic melanoma the constitutively Thr-38 phosphorylated fraction of ETS-1 induces miR-222. Despite its stepwise decreased expression along with melanoma progression, the oncogenic activity of ETS-1 relies on its RAS/RAF/ERK-dependent phosphorylation status more than on its total amount. To close the loop, we demonstrate ETS-1 as a direct target of miR-222, but not miR-221, showing the novel option of their uncoupled functions. In addition, a spatial redistribution of ETS-1 protein from the nucleus to the cytoplasm is also evidenced in advanced melanoma cells. Finally, in vivo studies confirmed the contribution of miR-222 to the increased invasive potential obtained by ETS- silencing.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.