MiR-137 and miR-34a directly target Snail and inhibit EMT, invasion and sphere-forming ability of ovarian cancer cells.

Peixin Dong* (Corresponding Author), Ying Xiong, Hidemichi Watari* (Corresponding Author), Sharon J. B. Hanley, Yosuke Konno, Kei Ihira, Takahiro Yamada, Masataka Kudo, Junming Yue* (Corresponding Author), Noriaki Sakuragi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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BACKGROUND: In ovarian cancer (OC) cells, Snail was reported to induce the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which is a critical step in OC metastasis. At present little is known about controlling Snail expression in OC cells by using specific microRNAs (miRNAs). METHODS: We first used a computational target prediction analysis to identify 6 candidate miRNAs that bind to the 3'-untranslated region (3'-UTR) region of the Snail mRNA. Among these miRNAs, two miRNAs (miR-137 and miR-34a) with a potential to regulate Snail were validated by quantitative real-time PCR, Western blot analysis, and Snail 3'-UTR reporter assays. We assessed the effects of miR-137 and miR-34a on EMT, invasion and sphere formation in OC cells. We also evaluated the expression of miR-137 and miR-34a in OC tissues and adjacent normal tissues and analyzed the relationship between their expression and patient survival. RESULTS: We report that OC tissues possess significantly decreased levels of miR-137 and miR-34a and increased expression of Snail when compared to their adjacent normal tissues, and lower miR-137 and miR-34a expression correlates with worse patient survival. Using luciferase constructs containing the 3'-UTR region of Snail mRNA combined with miRNA overexpression and mutagenesis, we identified miR-137 and miR-34a as direct suppressors of Snail in OC cells. The introduction of miR-137 and miR-34a resulted in the suppression of Snail at both the transcript and protein levels, and effectively suppressed the EMT phenotype and sphere formation of OC cells. However, the inhibition of miR-137 and miR-34a with antisense oligonucleotides promoted EMT and OC cell invasion. Moreover, ectopic expression of Snail significantly reversed the inhibitory effects of miR-137 and miR-34a on OC cell invasion and sphere formation. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that both miR-137 and miR-34a act as Snail suppressors to negatively regulate EMT, invasive and sphere-forming properties of OC cells.
Original languageEnglish
Article number132
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Early online date5 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2016

Bibliographical note

We thank Dr. Zhujie Xu for technical assistance.

This work was supported by funding from the Department of Women’s Health Educational System, a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) (15 K10697 and 16 K11123) and Science and Technology Planning Project of Guangdong Province, China (2013B021800155).


  • Female
  • Humans
  • EMT
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • microRNA-34a
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • *Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Cancer stemness
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • microRNA-137
  • MicroRNAs/*genetics
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Ovarian Neoplasms/*genetics/metabolism/pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Snail
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors/*genetics/metabolism
  • Spheroids, Cellular/metabolism/pathology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


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