In the last few years, microRNAs (miRNA) have started a revolution in molecular biology and emerged as key players in the carcinogenesis. They have been identified in various tumor types, showing that different sets of miRNAs are usually deregulated in different cancers. To identify the miRNA signature that was specific for oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), we first examined expression profiles of 148 miRNAs in a panel of 18 OSCC cell lines and the immortalized oral keratinocyte line RT7 as a control. Compared with RT7, the expression of 54 miRNAs (36.5%) was frequently down-regulated in OSCC lines (<0.5-fold expression, ≥66.7% of 18 lines). Among these 54 miRNAs, we further analyzed four of these miRNAs (i.e., miR-34b, miR-137, miR-193a, and miR-203), located around CpG islands, to identify tumor-suppressive miRNAs silenced through aberrant DNA methylation. The expression of those four genes was restored by treatment with 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine in OSCC cells lacking their expression. In addition, expression levels of the four miRNAs were inversely correlated with their DNA methylation status in the OSCC lines. In primary tumors of OSCC with paired normal oral mucosa, down-regulation of miRNA expression through tumor-specific hypermethylation was more frequently observed for miR-137 and miR-193a than for miR-34b and miR-203. Moreover, the ectopic transfection of miR-137 or miR-193a into OSCC lines lacking their expressions significantly reduced cell growth, with down-regulation of the translation of cyclin-dependent kinase 6 or E2F transcription factor 6, respectively. Taken together, our results clearly show that miR-137 and miR-193a are tumor suppressor miRNAs epigenetically silenced during oral carcinogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research