Progesterone downregulation of miR-141 contributes to expansion of stem-like breast cancer cells through maintenance of progesterone receptor and Stat5a

Oncogene. 2015 Jul;34(28):3676-87. doi: 10.1038/onc.2014.298. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


Progesterone (P4) has emerged as an important hormone-regulating mammary stem cell (MaSC) populations. In breast cancer, P4 and synthetic analogs increase the number of stem-like cells within luminal estrogen receptor (ER)- and progesterone receptor (PR)-positive breast cancers. These cells gain expression of de-differentiated cell markers CD44 and cytokeratin 5 (CK5), lose luminal markers ER and PR, and are more therapy resistant. We previously described that P4 downregulation of microRNA (miR)-29a contributes to the expansion of CD44(high) and CK5(+) cells. Here we investigated P4 downregulation of miR-141, a member of the miR-200 family of tumor suppressors, in facilitating an increase in stem-like breast cancer cells. miR-141 was the sole member of the miR-200 family P4-downregulated at the mature miRNA level in luminal breast cancer cell lines. Stable inhibition of miR-141 alone increased the CD44(high) population, and potentiated P4-mediated increases in both CD44(high) and CK5(+) cells. Loss of miR-141 enhanced both mammosphere formation and tumor initiation. miR-141 directly targeted both PR and signal transducer and activator of transcription 5A (Stat5a), transcription factors important for MaSC expansion. miR-141 depletion increased PR protein levels, even in cell lines where PR expression is estrogen dependent. Stat5a suppression via small interfering RNA or a small-molecule inhibitor reduced the P4-dependent increase in CK5(+) and CD44(high) cells. These data support a mechanism by which P4-triggered loss of miR-141 facilitates breast cancer cell de-differentiation through deregulation of PR and Stat5a, two transcription factors important for controlling mammary cell fate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism
  • Keratin-5 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Progesterone / pharmacology*
  • Progestins / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • STAT5 Transcription Factor / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*


  • CD44 protein, human
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Keratin-5
  • MIRN141 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Progestins
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • STAT5 Transcription Factor
  • STAT5A protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Progesterone