MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are known to be involved in carcinogenesis and tumor progression in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Recently, microRNA-7 (miR-7) has been proven to play a substantial role in glioblastoma and breast cancer, but its functions in the context of HCC remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that miR-7 inhibits HCC cell growth and metastasis in vitro and in vivo. We first screened and identified a novel miR-7 target, phosphoinositide 3-kinase catalytic subunit delta (PIK3CD). Overexpression of miR-7 would specifically and markedly down-regulate its expression. miR-7-overexpressing subclones showed significant cell growth inhibition by G(0) /G(1) -phase cell-cycle arrest and significant impairment of cell migration in vitro. To identify the mechanisms, we investigated the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway and found that Akt, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and p70S6K were down-regulated, whereas 4EBP1 was up-regulated in miR-7-overexpressing subclones. We also identified two novel, putative miR-7 target genes, mTOR and p70S6K, which further suggests that miR-7 may be a key regulator of the PI3K/Akt pathway. In xenograft animal experiments, we found that overexpressed miR-7 effectively repressed tumor growth (3.5-fold decrease in mean tumor volume; n = 5) and abolished extrahepatic migration from liver to lung in a nude mouse model of metastasis (n = 5). The number of visible nodules on the lung surface was reduced by 32-fold. A correlation between miR-7 and PIK3CD expression was also confirmed in clinical samples of HCC.
Conclusion: These findings indicate that miR-7 functions as a tumor suppressor and plays a substantial role in inhibiting the tumorigenesis and reversing the metastasis of HCC through the PI3K/Akt/mTOR-signaling pathway in vitro and in vivo. By targeting PIK3CD, mTOR, and p70S6K, miR-7 efficiently regulates the PI3K/Akt pathway. Given these results, miR-7 may be a potential therapeutic or diagnostic/prognostic target for treating HCC.
Copyright © 2012 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.