MYC protein inhibits transcription of the microRNA cluster MC-let-7a-1~let-7d via noncanonical E-box

J Biol Chem. 2011 Nov 18;286(46):39703-14. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.293126. Epub 2011 Sep 8.


The human microRNA cluster MC-let-7a-1∼let-7d, with three members let-7a-1, let-7f-1, and let-7d, is an important cluster of the let-7 family. These microRNAs play critical roles in regulating development and carcinogenesis. Therefore, precise control of MC-let-7a-1∼let-7d level is critical for cellular functions. In this study, we first showed that the expression of these three members was significantly reduced in human hepatocellular carcinoma HepG2 cells as compared with the immortalized human liver L02 cells. We demonstrated that the MC-let-7a-1∼let-7d cluster was encoded by a single polycistronic transcript driven by a 10-kb upstream promoter, with two MYC-binding sites. Importantly, MYC inhibited MC-let-7a-1∼let-7d promoter activity via binding to the noncanonical E-box 3 downstream of the transcription start sites, whereas it enhanced promoter activity by binding to the canonical E-box 2 upstream of the transcription start sites. We found that although the binding affinity of MYC to E-box 2 was stronger than E-box 3, the binding quantum of MYC to E-box 3 was significantly higher in cancerous HepG2 cells as compared with the noncancerous L02 cells. In addition, forced expression of let-7 could reverse the MYC-mediated cell proliferation. These findings suggested that in L02 cells with a low level of MYC, MYC binds mainly to E-box 2 to enhance MC-let-7a-1∼let-7d expression. However, in HepG2 cells with an elevated MYC, the extra MYC could bind to E-box 3 to suppress the transcription of MC-let-7a-1∼let-7d and thus enable HepG2 cells to maintain a high level of MYC and a low level of let-7 microRNAs simultaneously.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Multigene Family*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism*
  • Response Elements*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • MYC protein, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • mirnlet7 microRNA, human