A p21-ZEB1 complex inhibits epithelial-mesenchymal transition through the microRNA 183-96-182 cluster

Mol Cell Biol. 2014 Feb;34(3):533-50. doi: 10.1128/MCB.01043-13. Epub 2013 Nov 25.


The tumor suppressor p21 acts as a cell cycle inhibitor and has also been shown to regulate gene expression by functioning as a transcription corepressor. Here, we identified p21-regulated microRNAs (miRNAs) by sequencing small RNAs from isogenic p21(+/+) and p21(-/-) cells. Three abundant miRNA clusters, miR-200b-200a-429, miR-200c-141, and miR-183-96-182, were downregulated in p21-deficient cells. Consistent with the known function of the miR-200 family and p21 in inhibition of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), we observed EMT upon loss of p21 in multiple model systems. To explore a role of the miR-183-96-182 cluster in EMT, we identified its genome-wide targets and found that miR-183 and miR-96 repressed common targets, including SLUG, ZEB1, ITGB1, and KLF4. Reintroduction of miR-200, miR-183, or miR-96 in p21(-/-) cells inhibited EMT, cell migration, and invasion. Conversely, antagonizing miR-200 and miR-183-96-182 cluster miRNAs in p21(+/+) cells increased invasion and elevated the levels of VIM, ZEB1, and SLUG mRNAs. Furthermore, we found that p21 forms a complex with ZEB1 at the miR-183-96-182 cluster promoter to inhibit transcriptional repression of this cluster by ZEB1, suggesting a reciprocal feedback loop.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / genetics*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Integrin beta1 / genetics
  • Integrin beta1 / metabolism
  • Kruppel-Like Factor 4
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Multigene Family
  • Mutation
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / genetics
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA Interference
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1


  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Integrin beta1
  • KLF4 protein, human
  • Kruppel-Like Factor 4
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • MIRN183 microRNA, human
  • MIRN200 microRNA, human
  • MIRN96 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Mirn182 microRNA, human
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • SNAI1 protein, human
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • ZEB1 protein, human
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1