microRNA-7 is a novel inhibitor of YY1 contributing to colorectal tumorigenesis

Oncogene. 2013 Oct 17;32(42):5078-88. doi: 10.1038/onc.2012.526. Epub 2012 Dec 3.


Using microRNA (miRNA) expression array, we identified that miR-7 was deregulated in colorectal cancer (CRC). We studied the biological role and molecular target of miR-7 in CRC. miR-7 was downregulated in six out of seven colon cancer cell lines. Ectopic expression of miR-7 suppressed colon cancer cell proliferation (P<0.05), induced apoptosis (P<0.05) and caused cell-cycle arrest in G1 phase (P<0.05). The tumor suppressive function of miR-7 was further confirmed in nude mice (P<0.05). The 3'-untranslated region (3'UTR) of Yin Yang 1 (YY1) mRNA contains an evolutionarily conserved miR-7 binding site using in silico searches, luciferase reporter assay and western blot analysis confirmed that miR-7 directly bound to YY1 3'UTR to negatively regulate the protein expression of YY1 in colon cancer cell lines HCT116 and LOVO. Intriguingly, knock-down of YY1 in three colon cancer cell lines (HCT116, LOVO and DLD1) consistently suppressed cell proliferation (P<0.01) and induced apoptosis (P<0.01), indicating the opposite functions of miR-7 and YY1 in CRC. Consistent with these data, ectopic expression of YY1 promoted cell growth by increasing proliferation (P<0.01) and suppressing apoptosis (P<0.001). The tumorigenic ability of YY1 was further confirmed in vivo in xenograft-nude mouse model (P<0.01). In addition, pathway analyses revealed that the oncogenic effect by YY1 was associated with inhibiting p53 and modulating its downstream effectors p15, caspase cascades and C-Jun, and activating Wnt signaling pathway through activating β-catenin, anti-apoptotic survivin and fibroblast growth factor 4. Furthermore, multivariate analysis revealed that patients with YY1 protein high expression had a significant decrease in overall survival, and Kaplan-Meier survival curves showed that these patients had significantly shorter survival than others (P<0.0001). In conclusion, MiR-7 is a novel miRNA with tumor suppressive function in colon cancer by targeting oncogenic YY1. YY1 promotes colon cancer growth through inhibiting p53 and promoting Wnt signaling pathways and serves as an independent prognostic biomarker for CRC patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • G1 Phase Cell Cycle Checkpoints / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Genes, p53
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Mice, Nude
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays
  • YY1 Transcription Factor / genetics*
  • YY1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MIRN7 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • YY1 Transcription Factor
  • YY1 protein, human
  • beta Catenin