MicroRNA-122 inhibits tumorigenic properties of hepatocellular carcinoma cells and sensitizes these cells to sorafenib

Shoumei Bai, Mohd W. Nasser, Bo Wang, Shu Hao Hsu, Jharna Datta, Huban Kutay, Arti Yadav, Gerard Nuovo, Pawan Kumar, Kalpana Ghoshal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

426 Scopus citations


MicroRNAs are negative regulators of protein coding genes. The liver-specific microRNA-122 (miR-122) is frequently suppressed in primary hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs). In situ hybridization demonstrated that miR-122 is abundantly expressed in hepatocytes but barely detectable in primary human HCCs. Ectopic expression of miR-122 in nonexpressing HepG2, Hep3B, and SK-Hep-1 cells reversed their tumorigenic properties such as growth, replication potential, clonogenic survival, anchorage-independent growth, migration, invasion, and tumor formation in nude mice. Further, miR-122-expressing HCC cells retained an epithelial phenotype that correlated with reduced Vimentin expression. ADAM10 (a distintegrin and metalloprotease family 10), serum response factor (SRF), and insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (Igf1R) that promote tumorigenesis were validated as targets of miR-122 and were repressed by the microRNA. Conversely, depletion of the endogenous miR-122 in Huh-7 cells facilitated their tumorigenic properties with concomitant up-regulation of these targets. Expression of SRF or Igf1R partially reversed tumor suppressor function of miR-122. Further, miR-122 impeded angiogenic properties of endothelial cells in vitro. Notably, ADAM10, SRF, and Igf1R were up-regulated in primary human HCCs compared with the matching liver tissue. Co-labeling studies demonstrated exclusive localization of miR-122 in the benign livers, whereas SRF predominantly expressed in HCC. More importantly, growth and clonogenic survival of miR-122-expressing HCC cells were significantly reduced upon treatment with sorafenib, a multi-kinase inhibitor clinically effective against HCC. Collectively, these results suggest that the loss of multifunctional miR-122 contributes to the malignant phenotype of HCC cells, and miR-122 mimetic alone or in combination with anticancer drugs can be a promising therapeutic regimen against liver cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32015-32027
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number46
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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