Differential Expression of MicroRNAs in Breast Cancers from Four Different Ethnicities

Pathobiology. 2018;85(4):220-226. doi: 10.1159/000488456. Epub 2018 May 23.


Introduction: Breast cancer outcomes vary across different ethnic groups. MicroRNAs (miRs) are small non-coding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression across a range of pathologies, including breast cancer. The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence and expression of miRs in breast cancer samples from different ethnic groups.

Materials and methods: Breast cancer tissue from 4 ethnic groups, i.e., British Caucasian, British Black, Nigerian, and Indian, were identified and matched for patients' age, tumour grade/type, and 10 × 10 µm sections taken. Tumour areas were macrodissected, total RNA was extracted, and cDNA was synthesised. cDNA was applied to human miScript PCR arrays allowing the quantification of 84 of the most abundantly expressed/best-characterised miRs.

Results: Differential expression of 9 miRs was seen across the 4 groups. Significantly higher levels of miR-140-5p, miR-194 and miR-423-5p (the last of which harbours the single-nucleotide polymorphism rs6505162) were seen in the breast tumours of Nigerian patients when compared with other ethnic groups (all p < 0.0001). miR-101 was overexpressed in breast cancers in the Indian patients. An in silico analysis of miR-423-5p showed that the AC genotype is mainly associated with Europeans (57%), while Asians display mostly CC (approx. 60%), and Africans mainly AA (approx. 60%).

Conclusions: This study shows divergence in miR expression in breast cancers from different ethnic groups, and suggests that specific genetic variants in miR genes may affect breast cancer risk in these groups. Predicted targets of these miRs may uncover useful biomarkers that could have clinical value in breast cancers in different ethnic groups.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Ethnic background; MicroRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / analysis
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Transcriptome


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs