One major reason for the failure of advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) treatment is the occurrence of chemoresistance to fluoropyrimidine (FU)-based chemotherapy. Various reports showed that ectopic expression and function of microRNAs (miRNAs) played key roles to mediate apoptosis at the post-transcriptional level. To further explore the possible mechanisms, we evaluated the prognostic effect of miR-218 in patients with CRC receiving 5-FU-based treatment and investigated the proapoptotic role of miR-218 in vitro. Primary tumour specimens and adjacent non-tumour sites were used to determine miR-218 expression distribution and explore its potential prognostic value in response to 5-FU-based treatment in patients with CRC. HCT116 and HT29 cells were transfected with precursor miR-218 or negative control, followed by assays to investigate its influence on apoptosis, cell proliferation and pathways involved in molecular mechanisms of chemoresistance to 5-FU. Results showed that high miR-218 expression was associated with positive response to firstline 5-FU treatment in CRC patients. MiR-218 promoted apoptosis, inhibited cell proliferation and caused cell cycle arrest in CRC cells by suppressing BIRC5 expression. Furthermore, miR-218 enhanced 5-FU cytotoxicity in CRC cells by suppressing the 5-FU targeted enzyme, thymidylate synthase (TS). In conclusion, we demonstrated that high miR-218 expression had a positive prognostic value in 5-FU-based treatments for CRC patients and discovered a novel mechanism mediated by miR-218 to promote apoptosis and to function synergistically with 5-FU to promote chemosensitivity by suppressing BIRC5 and TS in CRC. These suggest the unique potential of miR-218 as a novel candidate for developing miR-218-based therapeutic strategies in CRC.
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