Background: Deregulated miRNA expression plays a crucial role in carcinogenesis. Recent studies show different mechanisms leading to miRNA deregulation in cancer; however, alterations affecting miRNAs by DNA copy number variations (CNV) remain poorly studied.
Results: Our integrative analysis including data from high resolution SNPs arrays, mRNA expression arrays, and miRNAs expression profiles in 16 myeloid cell lines highlights that CNV are alternative mechanisms to deregulate the expression of miRNAs in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and represent a novel approach to identify novel candidate genes involved in AML. We found association between the expression levels of 19 miRNAs and CNVs affecting their loci. Functional analysis showed that NF1 is a direct target of miR-370, and that overexpression of miR-370 has similar effects that NF1 inactivation, increasing proliferation and colony formation in AML cells. Moreover, real time RT-PCR showed that NF1 downregulation is a recurrent event in AML (30.8%), and western blot analysis confirmed this result. MiR-370 overexpression and deletions affecting the NF1 locus were identified as alternative mechanisms to downregulate NF1.
Conclusions: NF1 downregulation is a common event in AML, and both deletions in the NF1 locus and overexpression of miR-370 are alternative mechanisms to downregulate NF1 in this disease. Our results suggest a leukemogenic role of miR-370 through NF1 downregulation in AML cells. Since NF1 deficiency leads to RAS activation, patients with AML and overexpression of miR-370 may potentially benefit from additional treatment with either RAS or mTOR inhibitors.