HIF-1α downregulates miR-17/20a directly targeting p21 and STAT3: a role in myeloid leukemic cell differentiation

Cell Death Differ. 2013 Mar;20(3):408-18. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2012.130. Epub 2012 Oct 12.


Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is a crucial transcription factor for the cellular adaptive response to hypoxia, which contributes to multiple events in cancer biology. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in almost all cellular activities such as differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis. In this work, we use miRNA microarrays to profile miRNA expression in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells with inducible HIF-1α expression, and identify 19 differentially expressed miRNAs. Our study shows that HIF-1α represses the expression of miR-17 and miR-20a by downregulating c-Myc expression. These two miRNAs alleviate hypoxia and HIF-1α-induced differentiation of AML cells. More intriguingly, miR-17 and miR-20a directly inhibit the p21 and STAT3 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3) expression, both of which can reverse miR-17/miR-20a-mediated abrogation of HIF-1α-induced differentiation. Moreover, we show in vivo that miR-20a contributes to HIF-1α-induced differentiation of leukemic cells. Taken together, our results suggest that HIF-1α regulates the miRNA network to interfere with AML cell differentiation, representing a novel molecular mechanism for HIF-1-mediated anti-leukemic action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • CD11b Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • U937 Cells


  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins
  • CD11b Antigen
  • CEBPA protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • MIRN17 microRNA, human
  • MIRN20a microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor