Extracellular circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) have been suggested to be biomarkers for disease monitoring but data are inconsistent, one reason being that blood miRNA is of heterogeneous origin. Here, we sampled extracellular microRNAs locally in situ using microdialysis. Three different cohorts of women were included; postmenopausal women with ongoing breast cancer investigated within the cancer and in normal adjacent breast tissue, postmenopausal women investigated in their normal healthy breast and subcutaneous fat before and after six weeks of tamoxifen therapy, premenopausal women during the menstrual cycle. Samples were initially screened using TaqMan array cards with subsequently absolute quantification. 124 miRNA were expressed in microdialysates. After absolute quantifications extracellular miRNA-21 was found to be significantly increased in breast cancer. In addition, the levels were significantly higher in pre-menopausal breast tissue compared with postmenopausal. In breast tissue of pre-menopausal women miRNA-21 exhibited a cyclic variation during the menstrual cycle and in postmenopausal women six weeks of tamoxifen treatment decreased miRNA-21 suggesting that this miRNA may be important for breast carcinogenesis. None of these changes were found in plasma or microdialysates from subcutaneous fat. Our data revealed tissue specific changes of extracellular circulating miRNAs that would be otherwise unraveled using blood samples.
Keywords: estrogen; mammary gland; microdialysis; sex steroids; tamoxifen.