miR-138-5p contributes to cell proliferation and invasion by targeting Survivin in bladder cancer cells

Mol Cancer. 2016 Dec 15;15(1):82. doi: 10.1186/s12943-016-0569-4.


Background: Survivin (encoded by the gene BIRC5) plays an important role in the carcinogenesis of bladder cancer. Identifying miRNAs that target Survivin in the setting of bladder cancer will help to develop Survivin-based therapies for bladder cancer.

Methods: The expression levels of miR-138-5p and Survivin protein were measured in 12 resected bladder cancer specimens. The correlation between miR-138-5p and Survivin was further examined by evaluating Survivin expression in human bladder cancer cell lines that either overexpressed or knocked down miR-138-5p. A luciferase reporter assay was performed to test the direct binding of miR-138-5p to the target gene BIRC5. We also investigated the biological role of miR-138-5p targeting to Survivin in bladder cancer cell lines both in vivo and in vitro.

Results: In this study, we found that the Survivin protein was either absent or weakly expressed in normal adjacent tissues and consistently up-regulated in bladder cancer tissues; however, the mRNA levels did not vary as much, suggesting that a post-transcriptional mechanism was involved. Because microRNAs are powerful post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression, we used bioinformatic analyses to search for microRNAs that could potentially target BIRC5 in the setting of bladder cancer. We identified 2 specific targeting sites for miR-138-5p in the 3' untranslated region (3'-UTR) of BIRC5. We further identified an inverse correlation between miR-138-5p and Survivin protein levels in bladder cancer tissue samples. By overexpressing or knocking down miR-138-5p in bladder cancer cells, we experimentally confirmed that miR-138-5p directly recognizes the 3'-UTR of the BIRC5 transcript and regulates Survivin expression. Furthermore, the biological consequences of the targeting of BIRC5 by miR-138-5p were examined in vitro via cell proliferation and invasion assays and in vivo using a mouse xenograft tumor model. We demonstrated that BIRC5 repression by miR-138-5p suppressed the proliferative and invasive characteristics of bladder cancer cells and that miR-138-5p exerted an anti-tumor effect by negatively regulating BIRC5 in a xenograft mouse model.

Conclusions: Taken together, our findings provide the first clues regarding the role of miR-138-5p as a tumor suppressor in bladder cancer by inhibiting BIRC5 translation.

Keywords: Bladder cancer; Survivin; miR-138-5p; post-transcriptional regulation.

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins / genetics*
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Survivin
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / metabolism


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • MIRN138 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Survivin