Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been implicated in embryonic development and various pathological events. However, the involvement of microRNA in the process of EMT remains to be fully defined in hepatocyte. ZEB1 is a well-known transcriptional repressor of E-cadherin and plays a major role in triggering EMT during organ fibrosis and cancer cell metastasis. Computational microRNA target predictions detect a conserved sequence matching to miR-101 in the 3'UTR of ZEB1 mRNA. Our results confirm that miR-101 suppresses ZEB1 expression by targeting the predicted site of ZEB1 3'UTR. Subsequent investigations show that miR-101 is significantly downregulated in the cultured hepatocytes undergoing EMT and in the hepatocytes isolated from fibrotic liver. Along with the loss of miR-101, the ZEB1 expression increases simultaneously in hepatocytes. In addition, miR-101 levels in HCC cell lines are negatively associated with the ZEB1 productions and the metastatic potentials of tumor cells. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that miR-101 significantly inhibits the TGF-β1-induced EMT in hepatocytes, whereas inhibition of miR-101 promotes the EMT process as indicated by the changes of morphology, cell migration, and the expression profiles of EMT markers. In the fibrotic liver, ectopic expression of miR-101 can significantly downregulate ZEB1 in the hepatocyte and thereby reduces the mesenchymal marker expression. Moreover, miR-101 significantly inhibits the proliferation and migration of HCC cell. Our results demonstrate that miR-101 regulates HCC cell phenotype by upregulating the epithelial marker genes and suppressing the mesenchymal ones.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.