MicroRNA regulatory pathway analysis identifies miR-142-5p as a negative regulator of TGF-β pathway via targeting SMAD3

Oncotarget. 2016 Nov 1;7(44):71504-71513. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.12229.


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are non-coding RNAs with functions of posttranscriptional regulation. The abnormally expressed miRNAs have been shown to be crucial contributors and may serve as biomarkers in many diseases. However, determining the biological function of miRNAs is an ongoing challenge. By combining miRNA targets prediction, miRNA and mRNA expression profiles in TCGA cancers, and pathway data, we performed a miRNA-pathway regulation inference by Fisher's exact test for enrichment analysis. Then we constructed a database to show the cancer related miRNA-pathway regulatory network (http://bioinfo.life.hust.edu.cn/miR_path). As one of the miRNAs targeting many cancer related pathways, miR-142-5p potentially regulates the maximum number of genes in TGF-β signaling pathway. We experimentally confirmed that miR-142-5p directly targeted and suppressed SMAD3, a key component in TGF-β signaling. Ectopic overexpression of miR-142-5p significantly promoted tumor cell proliferation and inhibited apoptosis, while silencing of miR-142-5p inhibited the tumor cell proliferation and promoted apoptosis in vitro. These findings indicate that miR-142-5p plays as a negative regulator in TGF-β pathway by targeting SMAD3 and suppresses TGF-β-induced growth inhibition in cancer cells. Our study proved the feasibility of miRNA regulatory pathway analysis and shed light on combining bioinformatics with experiments in the research of complex diseases.

Keywords: TGF-β pathway; cancer; miR-142-5p; microRNA; regulatory network.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Smad3 Protein / genetics*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology*


  • MIRN142 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • SMAD3 protein, human
  • Smad3 Protein
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta