miR-509 suppresses brain metastasis of breast cancer cells by modulating RhoC and TNF-α

Oncogene. 2015 Sep 10;34(37):4890-900. doi: 10.1038/onc.2014.412. Epub 2015 Feb 9.


The median survival time of breast cancer patients with brain metastasis is less than 6 months, and even a small metastatic lesion often causes severe neurological disabilities. Because of the location of metastatic lesions, a surgical approach is limited and most chemotherapeutic drugs are ineffective owing to the blood brain barrier (BBB). Despite this clinical importance, the molecular basis of the brain metastasis is poorly understood. In this study, we have isolated RNA from samples obtained from primary breast tumors and also from brain metastatic lesions followed by microRNA profiling analysis. Our results revealed that the miR-509 is highly expressed in the primary tumors, whereas the expression of this microRNA is significantly decreased in the brain metastatic lesions. MicroRNA target prediction and the analysis of cytokine array for the cells ectopically expressed with miR-509 demonstrated that this microRNA was capable of modulating the two genes essential for brain invasion, RhoC and TNF-α that affect the invasion of cancer cells and permeability of BBB, respectively. Importantly, high levels of TNF-α and RhoC-induced MMP9 were significantly correlated with brain metastasis-free survival of breast cancer patients. Furthermore, the results of our in vivo experiments indicate that miR-509 significantly suppressed the ability of cancer cells to metastasize to the brain. These findings suggest that miR-509 has a critical role in brain metastasis of breast cancer by modulating the RhoC-TNF-α network and that this miR-509 axis may represent a potential therapeutic target or serve as a prognostic tool for brain metastasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics*
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • rhoC GTP-Binding Protein


  • MIRN509 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • RHOC protein, human
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rhoC GTP-Binding Protein