In lung cancers, TTF-1 displays seemingly paradoxical activities. Although TTF-1 is amplified in primary human lung cancers, it inhibits primary lung tumors from metastasizing in a mouse model system. It was reported that the oncogenic proepithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) high mobility group AT-hook 2 gene (HMGA2) mediates the antimetastatic function of TTF-1. To gain mechanistic insight into the metastasis-critical signaling axis of TTF-1 to HMGA2, we used both reverse and forward strategies and discovered that microRNA-33a (miR-33a) is under direct positive regulation of TTF-1. By chromatin immunoprecipitation, we determined that TTF-1 binds to the promoter of SREBF2, the host gene of miR-33a. The 3'-untranslated region (UTR) of HMGA2 contains three predicted binding sites of miR-33a. We showed that the first two highly conserved sites are conducive to HMGA2 repression by miR-33a, establishing HMGA2 as a genuine target of miR-33a. Functional studies revealed that enforced expression of miR-33a inhibits the motility of lung cancer cells, and this inhibition can be rescued by overexpression of the form of HMGA2 without the 3'-UTR, suggesting that TTF-1 keeps the prometastasis gene HMGA2 in check via up-regulating miR-33a. This study reports the first miRNAs directly regulated by TTF-1 and clarifies how TTF-1 controls HMGA2 expression. Moreover, the documented importance of SREBF2 and miR-33a in regulating cholesterol metabolism suggests that TTF-1 may be a modulator of cholesterol homeostasis in the lung. Future studies will be dedicated to understanding how miRNAs influence the oncogenic activity of TTF-1 and the role of TTF-1 in cholesterol metabolism.
Keywords: Cholesterol Regulation; Gene Regulation; HMGA2; Lung Cancer; Metastasis; MicroRNA; SREBP2; TTF-1; miR-32; miR-33a.