In addition to protein-coding genes, the human genome makes a large amount of noncoding RNAs, including microRNAs and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). Both microRNAs and lncRNAs have been shown to have a critical role in the regulation of cellular processes such as cell growth and apoptosis, as well as cancer progression and metastasis. Although it is well known that microRNAs can target a large number of protein-coding genes, little is known whether microRNAs can also target lncRNAs.
In the present study, researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center determine whether miR-21 can regulate lncRNA expression. Using the lncRNA RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) array carrying 83 human disease-related lncRNAs, they show that miR-21 is capable of suppressing the lncRNA growth arrest-specific 5 (GAS5). This negative correlation between miR-21 and GAS5 is also seen in breast tumor specimens. Of interest, GAS5 can also repress miR-21 expression. Whereas ectopic expression of GAS5 suppresses, GAS5-siRNA increases miR-21 expression. Importantly, there is a putative miR-21-binding site in exon 4 of GAS5; deletion of the miR-21-binding site abolishes this activity. Experiments with in vitro cell culture and xenograft mouse model suggest that GAS5 functions as a tumor suppressor. They further show that the biotin-labeled GAS5-RNA probe is able to pull down the key component (AGO2) of the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC) and they subsequently identify miR-21 in this GAS5-RISC complex, implying that miR-21 and GAS5 may regulate each other in a way similar to the microRNA-mediated silencing of target mRNAs. Together, these results suggest that miR-21 targets not only tumor-suppressive protein-coding genes but also lncRNA GAS5
- Zhang Z, Zhu Z, Watabe K, Zhang X, Bai C, Xu M, Wu F, Mo YY. (2013) Negative regulation of lncRNA GAS5 by miR-21. Cell Death Differ [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]