Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-related malignancy. Recently, we found that the EBV-encoded miRNA BART2-5p was increased in the serum of patients with preclinical nasopharyngeal carcinoma and that the copy number positively correlated with disease progression. In this study, we established its role in nasopharyngeal carcinoma progression and explored underlying mechanisms and clinical significance. BART2-5p was an independent unfavorable prognostic factor for progression-free survival and its circulating abundance positively associated with distant metastasis. Ectopic expression of BART2-5p promoted migration and invasion of EBV-negative nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells, whereas genetic downregulation of BART2-5p in EBV-positive nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells decreased aggressiveness. Mechanistically, BART2-5p targeted RND3, a negative regulator of Rho signaling. Downregulation of RND3 phenocopied the effect of BART2-5p and reconstitution of RND3 rescued the phenotype. By suppressing RND3, BART2-5p activated Rho signaling to enhance cell motility. These findings suggest a novel role for EBV miRNA BART2-5p in promoting nasopharyngeal carcinoma metastasis and its potential value as a prognostic indicator or therapeutic target. SIGNIFICANCE: This study shows that EBV-encoded BART2-5p miRNA suppresses expression of the RND3 Rho family GTPase, consequently promoting ROCK signaling, cell motility, and metastatic behavior of NPC cells.
©2020 American Association for Cancer Research.