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MicroRNA-421 confers paclitaxel resistance by binding to the KEAP1 3′UTR and predicts poor survival in non-small cell lung cancer

Duan F-G, Wang M-F, Cao Y-B, Li D, Li R-Z, Fan X-X, Khan I, Lai H-L, Zhang Y-Z, Hsiao WW-L, Yao X-J, Wu Q-B, Liu L, Tang I-J, Leung EL-H
Cell Death Dis. 2019;10:821. doi:10.1038/s41419-019-2031-1
MicroRNAs regulate post-transcriptional gene expression and play important roles in multiple cellular processes. In this study, we found that miR-421 suppresses kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1(KEAP1) expression by targeting its 3′-untranslated region (3′UTR). A Q-PCR assay demonstrated that miR-421 is overexpressed in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), especially in A549 cells. Consistently, the level of miR-421 was higher in clinical blood samples from lung cancer patients than in those from normal healthy donors, suggesting that miR-421 is an important lung cancer biomarker. Interestingly, overexpression of miR-421 reduced the level of KEAP1 expression, which further promoted lung cancer cell migration and invasion, as well as inhibited cell apoptosis both in vivo and in vitro. Furthermore, knockdown of miR-421 expression with an antisense morpholino oligonucleotide (AMO) increased ROS levels and treatment sensitivity to paclitaxel in vitro and in vivo, indicating that high miR-421 expression may at least partly account for paclitaxel tolerance in lung cancer patients. To find the upstream regulator of miR-421, one of the candidates, β-catenin, was knocked out via the CRISPR/Cas9 method in A549 cells. Our data showed that inhibiting β-catenin reduced miR-421 levels in A549 cells. In addition, β-catenin upregulation enhanced miR-421 expression, indicating that β-catenin regulates the expression of miR-421 in lung cancer. Taken together, our findings reveal the critical role of miR-421 in paclitaxel drug resistance and its upstream and downstream regulatory mechanisms. Therefore, miR-421 may serve as a potential molecular therapeutic target in lung cancer, and AMOs may be a potential treatment strategy.
Organism or Cell Type: 
cell culture: human NSCLC A549; mouse xenograft
Delivery Method: 
intratumoral injection