To identify microRNAs (miRNAs) associated with estrogen receptor (ESR1) status, we profiled luminal A, ESR1+ breast cancer cell lines versus triple negative (TN), which lack ERα, progesterone receptor and Her2/neu. Although two thirds of the differentially expressed miRNAs are higher in ESR1+ breast cancer cells, some miRNAs, such as miR-222/221 and miR-29a, are dramatically higher in ESR1- cells (∼100- and 16-fold higher, respectively). MiR-222/221 (which target ESR1 itself) and miR-29a are predicted to target the 3' UTR of Dicer1. Addition of these miRNAs to ESR1+ cells reduces Dicer protein, whereas antagonizing miR-222 in ESR1- cells increases Dicer protein. We demonstrate via luciferase reporter assays that these miRNAs directly target the Dicer1 3' UTR. In contrast, miR-200c, which promotes an epithelial phenotype, is 58-fold higher in the more well-differentiated ERα+ cells, and restoration of miR-200c to ERα- cells causes increased Dicer protein, resulting in increased levels of other mature miRNAs typically low in ESR1- cells. Together, our findings explain why Dicer is low in ERα negative breast cancers, since such cells express high miR-221/222 and miR-29a levels (which repress Dicer) and low miR-200c (which positively affect Dicer levels). Furthermore, we find that miR-7, which is more abundant in ERα+ cells and is estrogen regulated, targets growth factor receptors and signaling intermediates such as EGFR, IGF1R, and IRS-2. In summary, miRNAs differentially expressed in ERα+ versus ERα- breast cancers actively control some of the most distinguishing characteristics of the luminal A and TN subtypes, such as ERα itself, Dicer, and growth factor receptor levels.
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