Androgens downregulate miR-21 expression in breast cancer cells underlining the protective role of androgen receptor

Oncotarget. 2016 Mar 15;7(11):12651-61. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.7207.


Although the protective role of androgen receptor (AR) in breast cancer (BC) is well established, the mechanisms involved remains largely unexplored. MicroRNAs play fundamental roles in many biological processes, including tumor cell development and metastasis. Herein, we report that androgens reduce BC cells proliferation acting as a negative modulator of the onco-miRNA-21.The synthetic androgen miboleron (Mib) decreases BC cell proliferation induced by miR-21 over-expression and AR knockdown evidenced the requirement of AR in the down-regulation of miR-21 expression. These effects seem to be a general mechanism occurring in BC tissues.Chromatin immune-precipitation (ChIP) analysis disclosed the binding of AR to a specific ARE sequence in miR-21 proximal promoter and recognizes the recruitment of HDAC3 as component for AR-mediated transcriptional repression. Such event is associated to a significantly reduced PolII binding in Mib treated extracts confirming that activated AR is a transcriptional repressor of miR-21 expression, providing further insight into the protective role of androgens in breast cancer cells.Collectively, our data and the widespread AR expression in primary and metastatic breast tumours, suggest a careful examination of the therapeutic potential of androgens also in potentiating the effectiveness of anti-oestrogen adjuvant therapies.

Keywords: androgen receptor; androgens; breast cancer; miR-21.

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • MicroRNAs / drug effects
  • Nandrolone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Nandrolone / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism*


  • AR protein, human
  • Androgens
  • MIRN21 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Nandrolone
  • mibolerone