miR-137 regulates the constitutive androstane receptor and modulates doxorubicin sensitivity in parental and doxorubicin-resistant neuroblastoma cells

Oncogene. 2014 Jul 10;33(28):3717-29. doi: 10.1038/onc.2013.330. Epub 2013 Aug 12.


Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for cancer. However, multidrug resistance (MDR) remains a major obstacle to effective chemotherapy, limiting the efficacy of both conventional chemotherapeutic and novel biologic agents. The constitutive androstane receptor (CAR), a xenosensor, is a key regulator of MDR. It functions in xenobiotic detoxification by regulating the expression of phase I drug-metabolizing enzymes and ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, whose overexpression in cancers and whose role in drug resistance make them potential therapeutic targets for reducing MDR. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous negative regulators of gene expression and have been implicated in most cellular processes, including drug resistance. Here, we report the inversely related expression of miR-137 and CAR in parental and doxorubicin-resistant neuroblastoma cells, wherein miR-137 is downregulated in resistant cells. miR-137 overexpression resulted in downregulation of CAR protein and mRNA (via mRNA degradation); it sensitized doxorubicin-resistant cells to doxorubicin (as shown by reduced proliferation, increased apoptosis and increased G2-phase cell cycle arrest) and reduced the in vivo growth rate of neuroblastoma xenografts. We observed similar results in cellular models of hepatocellular and colon cancers, indicating that the doxorubicin-sensitizing effect of miR-137 is not tumor type-specific. Finally, we show for the first time a negative feedback loop whereby miR-137 downregulates CAR expression and CAR downregulates miR-137 expression. Hypermethylation of the miR-137 promoter and negative regulation of miR-137 by CAR contribute in part to reduced miR-137 expression and increased CAR and MDR1 expression in doxorubicin-resistant neuroblastoma cells. These findings demonstrate that miR-137 is a crucial regulator of cancer response to doxorubicin treatment, and they identify miR-137 as a highly promising target to reduce CAR-driven doxorubicin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / genetics
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Down-Regulation / genetics
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Feedback, Physiological / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Neuroblastoma / genetics
  • Neuroblastoma / metabolism
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology*
  • Neuroblastoma / physiopathology
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / drug effects
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • MIRN137 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • constitutive androstane receptor
  • Doxorubicin