Background: MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs involved in the regulation of gene expression on a posttranscriptional level. These regulatory RNAs have been implicated in numerous cellular processes and are further deregulated in different cancer types, including breast cancer. MiR-92a is part of the miR-17∼92 cluster, which was first reported to be linked to tumourigenesis. However, little is known about the expression of miR-92a in breast cancer and potential associations to tumour properties. The expression of miR-92a was therefore characterized in 144 invasive breast cancer samples using in situ hybridization and related to clinico-pathological data as well as to selected key properties of the tumour stroma, including the presence of macrophages (CD68) and cancer activated fibroblasts (alpha-SMA).
Methodology/principal findings: To measure miR-92a levels, an in situ hybridisation protocol was developed and validated using cell lines and miR-92a inhibitors. The expression in the tumour samples was objectively evaluated using digital image analysis program subtracting background activities. We found that the miR-92a expression varied between tumours and was inversely correlated to tumour grade (r = -0.276, p = 0.003) and recurrence-free survival (p = 0.008) and provided independent prognostic information in multivariate Cox analysis (HR: 0.375, CI: 0.145-0.972, p = 0.043). MiR-92a was moreover inversely correlated to the number of infiltrating macrophages in the tumour stroma (r = -0.357, p<0.001), and downregulation of miR-92a promoted cell migration (p<0.01).
Conclusions/significance: This study demonstrates that downregulation of miR-92a in breast cancer is linked to key epithelial and stromal properties as well as clinical outcome.