miR-31 Displays Subtype Specificity in Lung Cancer

Cancer Res. 2021 Apr 15;81(8):1942-1953. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-2769. Epub 2021 Feb 8.


miRNA rarely possess pan-oncogenic or tumor-suppressive properties. Most miRNAs function under tissue-specific contexts, acting as either tumor suppressors in one tissue, promoting oncogenesis in another, or having no apparent role in the regulation of processes associated with the hallmarks of cancer. What has been less clear is the role of miRNAs within cell types of the same tissue and the ability within each cell type to contribute to oncogenesis. In this study, we characterize the role of one such tissue-specific miRNA, miR-31, recently identified as the most oncogenic miRNA in lung adenocarcinoma, across the histologic spectrum of human lung cancer. Compared with normal lung tissue, miR-31 was overexpressed in patient lung adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma, but not small-cell carcinoma or carcinoids. miR-31 promoted tumor growth in mice of xenografted human adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma cell lines, but not in large- or small-cell carcinoma lines. While miR-31 did not promote primary tumor growth of large- and small-cell carcinoma, it did promote spontaneous metastasis. Mechanistically, miR-31 altered distinct cellular signaling programs within each histologic subtype, resulting in distinct phenotypic differences. This is the first report distinguishing diverse functional roles for this miRNA across the spectrum of lung cancers and suggests that miR-31 has broad clinical value in human lung malignancy. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings demonstrate the oncogenic properties of miR-31 in specific subtypes of lung cancer and highlight it as a potential therapeutic target in these subtypes. GRAPHICAL ABSTRACT: http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/canres/81/8/1942/F1.large.jpg.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung / genetics
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma of Lung / pathology
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Adenosquamous / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Large Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Large Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Large Cell / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Organ Specificity
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / genetics
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / pathology
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / secondary
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • MIRN31 microRNA, human
  • MicroRNAs
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins