The pathogenesis of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) remains elusive. Recent discoveries indicate that the oncogenic microRNA miR-155 is overexpressed in affected skin from CTCL patients. Here, we address what drives the expression of miR-155 and investigate its role in the pathogenesis of CTCL. We show that malignant T cells constitutively express high levels of miR-155 and its host gene BIC (B cell integration cluster). Using ChIP-seq, we identify BIC as a target of transcription factor STAT5, which is aberrantly activated in malignant T cells and induced by IL-2/IL-15 in non-malignant T cells. Incubation with JAK inhibitor or siRNA-mediated knockdown of STAT5 decreases BIC/miR-155 expression, whereas IL-2 and IL-15 increase their expression in cell lines and primary cells. In contrast, knockdown of STAT3 has no effect, and BIC is not a transcriptional target of STAT3, indicating that regulation of BIC/miR-155 expression by STAT5 is highly specific. Malignant proliferation is significantly inhibited by an antisense-miR-155 as well as by knockdown of STAT5 and BIC. In conclusion, we provide the first evidence that STAT5 drives expression of oncogenic BIC/miR-155 in cancer. Moreover, our data indicate that the STAT5/BIC/miR-155 pathway promotes proliferation of malignant T cells, and therefore is a putative target for therapy in CTCL.
Keywords: BIC; CTCL; JAK; MF; STAT5; miR-155; miRNA.