Dysregulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) has important consequences on gene and protein expression since a single miRNA targets a number of genes simultaneously. This article provides a review of published data and ongoing studies regarding the effects of cigarette smoke (CS), either mainstream (MCS) or environmental (ECS), on the expression of miRNAs and related proteins. The results generated in mice, rats, and humans provided evidence that exposure to CS results in an intense dysregulation of miRNA expression in the respiratory tract, which is mainly oriented in the sense of downregulation. In parallel, there was an upregulation of proteins targeted by the downregulated miRNAs. These trends reflect an attempt to defend the respiratory tract by means of antioxidant mechanisms, detoxification of carcinogens, DNA repair, anti-inflammatory pathways, apoptosis, etc. However, a long-lasting exposure to CS causes irreversible miRNA alterations that activate carcinogenic mechanisms, such as modulation of oncogenes and oncosuppressor genes, cell proliferation, recruitment of undifferentiated stem cells, inflammation, inhibition of intercellular communications, angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis. The miRNA alterations induced by CS in the lung of mice and rats are similar to those observed in the human respiratory tract. Since a number of miRNAs that are modulated by CS and/or chemopreventive agents are subjected to single nucleotide polymorphisms in humans, they can be evaluated according to toxicogenomic/pharmacogenomics approaches. A variety of cancer chemopreventive agents tested in our laboratory modulated both baseline and CS-related miRNA and proteome alterations, thus contributing to evaluate both safety and efficacy of dietary and pharmacological agents.
Copyright © 2012 UICC.