Ph.D. Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Metastatic spread of cancer cells portends a poor prognosis and mortality for lung cancer patients. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) enhances tumor cell motility by activating the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which is considered a prerequisite for metastasis. Recent studies of microRNA involvement in cancer invasion and metastasis have highlighted the role of such RNAs in tumor development. However, little work has been done to identify tumor suppressor microRNAs that target HIF-1α to down-modulate the EMT and thereby counteract the aggressiveness and metastasis of lung cancer cells. Here, we identified the 3'-untranslated region of HIF-1α mRNA as a target of miR-622 and established that miR-622-mediated down-modulation of HIF-1α correlates with decreased levels of mesenchymal proteins, including Snail, β-catenin, and vimentin. Functional analyses revealed that increased miR-622 expression inhibited lung cancer cell migration and invasion in vitro. miR-622 also inhibited the genesis of metastatic lung nodules as demonstrated in a lung cancer xenograft model in which nude mice were transplanted with A549 cells expressing miR-622. Mechanistic analyses showed that overexpression of EGF decreased the miR-622 level in A549 cells, and this reduction could be rescued by administrating U0126, an inhibitor of ERK. Moreover, miR-622 overexpression mediated by the transcription factor FOXO3a decreased the invasiveness of lung tumor cells by inhibiting HIF-1α via inactivation of ERK signaling in U0126-treated A549 cells. These findings highlight the pivotal role of the FOXO3a/miR-622 axis in inhibiting HIF-1α to interfere with tumor metastasis, and this information may contribute to development of novel therapeutic strategies for treating aggressive lung cancer.