Background: ADAR enzymes convert adenosines to inosines within double-stranded RNAs, including microRNA (miRNA) precursors, with important consequences on miRNA retargeting and expression. ADAR2 activity is impaired in glioblastoma and its rescue has anti-tumoral effects. However, how ADAR2 activity may impact the miRNome and the progression of glioblastoma is not known.
Results: By integrating deep-sequencing and array approaches with bioinformatics analyses and molecular studies, we show that ADAR2 is essential to edit a small number of mature miRNAs and to significantly modulate the expression of about 90 miRNAs in glioblastoma cells. Specifically, the rescue of ADAR2 activity in cancer cells recovers the edited miRNA population lost in glioblastoma cell lines and tissues, and rebalances expression of onco-miRNAs and tumor suppressor miRNAs to the levels observed in normal human brain. We report that the major effect of ADAR2 is to reduce the expression of a large number of miRNAs, most of which act as onco-miRNAs. ADAR2 can edit miR-222/221 and miR-21 precursors and decrease the expression of the corresponding mature onco-miRNAs in vivo and in vitro, with important effects on cell proliferation and migration.
Conclusions: Our findings disclose an additional layer of complexity in miRNome regulation and provide information to better understand the impact of ADAR2 editing enzyme in glioblastoma. We propose that ADAR2 is a key factor for maintaining edited-miRNA population and balancing the expression of several essential miRNAs involved in cancer.