Changes in the intracellular levels of the essential micronutrient zinc have been implicated in multiple diseases including pancreatic cancer; however, the molecular mechanism is poorly understood. Here, we report a novel mechanism where increased zinc mediated by the zinc importer ZIP4 transcriptionally induces miR-373 in pancreatic cancer to promote tumour growth. Reporter, expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays demonstrate that ZIP4 activates the zinc-dependent transcription factor CREB and requires this transcription factor to increase miR-373 expression through the regulation of its promoter. miR-373 induction is necessary for efficient ZIP4-dependent enhancement of cell proliferation, invasion, and tumour growth. Further analysis of miR-373 in vivo oncogenic function reveals that it is mediated through its negative regulation of TP53INP1, LATS2 and CD44. These results define a novel ZIP4-CREB-miR-373 signalling axis promoting pancreatic cancer growth, providing mechanistic insights explaining in part how a zinc transporter functions in cancer cells and may have broader implications as inappropriate regulation of intracellular zinc levels plays an important role in many other diseases.
Keywords: ZIP4; microRNA-373; pancreatic cancer; zinc.
© 2013 The Authors. Published by John Wiley and Sons, Ltd on behalf of EMBO.