LIN28 Expression in malignant germ cell tumors downregulates let-7 and increases oncogene levels

Cancer Res. 2013 Aug 1;73(15):4872-84. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-2085. Epub 2013 Jun 17.


Despite their clinicopathologic heterogeneity, malignant germ cell tumors (GCT) share molecular abnormalities that are likely to be functionally important. In this study, we investigated the potential significance of downregulation of the let-7 family of tumor suppressor microRNAs in malignant GCTs. Microarray results from pediatric and adult samples (n = 45) showed that LIN28, the negative regulator of let-7 biogenesis, was abundant in malignant GCTs, regardless of patient age, tumor site, or histologic subtype. Indeed, a strong negative correlation existed between LIN28 and let-7 levels in specimens with matched datasets. Low let-7 levels were biologically significant, as the sequence complementary to the 2 to 7 nt common let-7 seed "GAGGUA" was enriched in the 3' untranslated regions of mRNAs upregulated in pediatric and adult malignant GCTs, compared with normal gonads (a mixture of germ cells and somatic cells). We identified 27 mRNA targets of let-7 that were upregulated in malignant GCT cells, confirming significant negative correlations with let-7 levels. Among 16 mRNAs examined in a largely independent set of specimens by quantitative reverse transcription PCR, we defined negative-associations with let-7e levels for six oncogenes, including MYCN, AURKB, CCNF, RRM2, MKI67, and C12orf5 (when including normal control tissues). Importantly, LIN28 depletion in malignant GCT cells restored let-7 levels and repressed all of these oncogenic let-7 mRNA targets, with LIN28 levels correlating with cell proliferation and MYCN levels. Conversely, ectopic expression of let-7e was sufficient to reduce proliferation and downregulate MYCN, AURKB, and LIN28, the latter via a double-negative feedback loop. We conclude that the LIN28/let-7 pathway has a critical pathobiologic role in malignant GCTs and therefore offers a promising target for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blotting, Western
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / genetics*
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Oncogenes
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transfection


  • LIN-28 protein, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • mirnlet7 microRNA, human