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Chromosomal instability (CIN) can be a driver of tumorigenesis but is also a promising therapeutic target for cancer associated with poor prognosis such as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). The treatment of TNBC cells with defects in DNA repair genes with poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitor (PARPi) massively increases CIN, resulting in apoptosis. Here, we identified a previously unknown role of microRNA-449a in CIN. The transfection of TNBC cell lines HCC38, HCC1937 and HCC1395 with microRNA-449a mimics led to induced apoptosis, reduced cell proliferation, and reduced expression of genes in homology directed repair (HDR) in microarray analyses. EME1 was identified as a new target gene by immunoprecipitation and luciferase assays. The reduced expression of EME1 led to an increased frequency of ultrafine bridges, 53BP1 foci, and micronuclei. The induced expression of microRNA-449a elevated CIN beyond tolerable levels and induced apoptosis in TNBC cell lines by two different mechanisms: (I) promoting chromatid mis-segregation by targeting endonuclease EME1 and (II) inhibiting HDR by downregulating key players of the HDR network such as E2F3, BIRC5, BRCA2 and RAD51. The ectopic expression of microRNA-449a enhanced the toxic effect of PARPi in cells with pathogenic germline BRCA1 variants. The newly identified role makes microRNA-449a an interesting therapeutic target for TNBC.


Beate Vajen, Rahul Bhowmick, Luisa Greiwe, Vera Schäffer, Marlies Eilers, Thea Reinkens, Amelie Stalke, Gunnar Schmidt, Jan Fiedler, Thomas Thum, David S DeLuca, Ian D Hickson, Brigitte Schlegelberger, Thomas Illig, Britta Skawran. MicroRNA-449a Inhibits Triple Negative Breast Cancer by Disturbing DNA Repair and Chromatid Separation. International journal of molecular sciences. 2022 May 04;23(9)

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PMID: 35563522

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