Tumor suppression by miR-31 in esophageal carcinoma is p21- dependent

Zhifeng Ning, Hua Zhu, Feifei Li, Qing Liu, Gefei Liu, Tao Tan, Bo Zhang, Shaobin Chen, Guanwu Li, Dongyang Huang, Stephen J. Meltzer, Hao Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


microRNA regulation network is important for the cancer genetic heterogeneity. Relative to the increasing numbers of microRNA’s targets identified, upstream regulatory mechanisms that control functional microRNAs are less well-documented. Here, we investigated the function of miR-31, a pleiotropically-acting microRNA, in esophageal squamous cell cancer (ESCC). We demonstrated that miR-31 only exerted tumor-suppressive effects in TE-7 ESCC cells, but not in TE-1 ESCC cells, although both of these cell lines harbor inactive p53. Interestingly, TE-1 cells highly expressed p21, while p21 levels were virtually undetectable in TE-7 cells, suggesting a p21-dependent mechanism of miR-31-mediated tumor suppression. Accordingly, knockdown of p21 in TE-1 cells reversed the tumor suppressive actions of miR-31. In patient ESCC specimens, real-time RT-PCR analysis revealed that expression of E2F2 and STK40, two known miR-31 target oncogenes, was negatively correlated with the expression of miR-31 in a p21-dependent manner, supporting the conclusion that miR-31 only downregulates its target oncogenes when p21 levels are low. Collectively, these data suggest a novel mechanism through which the tumor-suppressive effect of miR-31 is p21-dependent. In addition, we speculate that delivery of miR-31 could provide therapeutic benefit in the personalized management of a subgroup of ESCC patients with p21-deficient tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-444
Number of pages9
JournalGenes and Cancer
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 2014


  • Esophageal squamous cell cancer
  • MiR-31
  • MicroRNA
  • P21
  • Personalized medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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