MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in the regulation of gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Many exogenous compounds or xenobiotics may affect microRNA expression. It is a well-established fact that xenobiotics with planar structure like TCDD, benzo(a)pyrene (BP) can bind aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) followed by its nuclear translocation and transcriptional activation of target genes. Another chemically diverse group of xenobiotics including phenobarbital, DDT, can activate the nuclear receptor CAR and in some cases estrogen receptors ESR1 and ESR2. We hypothesized that such chemicals can affect miRNA expression through the activation of AHR, CAR, and ESRs. To prove this statement, we used in silico methods to find DRE, PBEM, ERE potential binding sites for these receptors, respectively. We have predicted AhR, CAR, and ESRs binding sites in 224 rat, 201 mouse, and 232 human promoters of miRNA-coding genes. In addition, we have identified a number of miRNAs with predicted AhR, CAR, and ESRs binding sites that are known as oncogenes and as tumor suppressors. Our results, obtained in silico, open a new strategy for ongoing experimental studies and will contribute to further investigation of epigenetic mechanisms of carcinogenesis.
Keywords: cancer; miRNA; nuclear receptors; xenobiotics.