CD95 is part of a let-7/p53/miR-34 regulatory network

PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49636. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049636. Epub 2012 Nov 14.


The death receptor CD95 (APO-1/Fas) mediates apoptosis induction upon ligation by its cognate ligand CD95L. Two types of CD95 signaling pathways have been identified, which are characterized by the absence (Type I) or presence (Type II) of mitochondrial involvement. Micro(mi)RNAs are small noncoding RNAs that negatively regulate gene expression. They are important regulators of differentiation processes and are found frequently deregulated in many human cancers. We recently showed that Type I cells express less of the differentiation marker miRNA let-7 and, hence, likely represent more advanced tumor cells than the let-7 high expressing Type II cells. We have now identified miR-34a as a selective marker for cells that are sensitive to CD95-mediated apoptosis. Both CD95 and miR-34a are p53 target genes, and consequently, both the sensitivity of cancer cells to CD95-mediated apoptosis and the ability to respond to p53 mediated DNA genotoxic stress are linked. Interestingly, while miR-34a was found to positively correlate with the ability of cells to respond to genotoxic stress, let-7 was negatively correlated. The expression level of CD95 inversely correlated with the expression of let-7 suggesting regulation of let-7 expression by CD95. To test a link between p53 and miR-34a, we altered the expression of CD95. This affected the ability of cells to activate p53 and to regulate miR-34a. Our data point to a novel regulatory network comprising p53, CD95, let-7, and miR-34a that affects cancer cell survival, differentiation, and sensitivity to apoptotic signals. The possible relevance of this regulatory network for cancer stem cells is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Damage
  • Epistasis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism
  • fas Receptor / genetics*
  • fas Receptor / metabolism


  • MIRN34 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • fas Receptor
  • mirnlet7 microRNA, human