P53-miR-191- SOX4 regulatory loop affects apoptosis in breast cancer

RNA. 2017 Aug;23(8):1237-1246. doi: 10.1261/rna.060657.117. Epub 2017 Apr 27.


miRNAs have emerged as key participants of p53 signaling pathways because they regulate or are regulated by p53. Here, we provide the first study demonstrating direct regulation of an oncogenic miRNA, miR-191-5p, by p53 and existence of a regulatory feedback loop. Using a combination of qRT-PCR, promoter-luciferase, and chromatin-immunoprecipitation assays, we show that p53 brings about down-regulation of miR-191-5p in breast cancer. miR-191-5p overexpression brought about inhibition of apoptosis in breast cancer cell lines (MCF7 and ZR-75) as demonstrated by reduction in annexin-V stained cells and caspase 3/7 activity, whereas miR-191-5p down-regulation showed the opposite. We further unveiled that SOX4 was a direct target of miR-191-5p. SOX4 overexpression was shown to increase p53 protein levels in MCF7 cells. miR-191-5p overexpression brought about down-regulation of SOX4 and thus p53 levels, suggesting the existence of a regulatory feedback loop. Breast cancer treatment by doxorubicin, an anti-cancer drug, involves induction of apoptosis by p53; we thus wanted to check whether miR-191-5p affects doxorubicin sensitivity. Interestingly, Anti-miR-191 treatment significantly decreased the IC50 of the doxorubicin drug and thus sensitized breast cancer cells to doxorubicin treatment by promoting apoptosis. Overall, this work highlights the importance of the p53-miR-191-SOX4 axis in the regulation of apoptosis and drug resistance in breast cancer and offers a preclinical proof-of-concept for use of an Anti-miR-191 and doxorubicin combination as a rational approach to pursue for better breast cancer treatment.

Keywords: SOX4; apoptosis; breast cancer; miR-191; p53.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Doxorubicin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • SOXC Transcription Factors / genetics
  • SOXC Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • MIRN191 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • SOX4 protein, human
  • SOXC Transcription Factors
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Doxorubicin