MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short single-stranded RNAs, measuring 21 to 23 nucleotides in length and regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level through mRNA destabilization or repressing protein synthesis. Dysregulation of miRNAs can lead to tumorigenesis through changes in regulation of key cellular processes such as cell proliferation, cell survival, and apoptosis. miR-125a-5p has been implicated as a tumor suppressor miRNA in malignancies such as non-small cell lung cancer and colon cancer. However, the role of miR-125a-5p has not been fully investigated in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). We performed microRNA microarray profiling of HNSCC tumor samples obtained from a prospective clinical trial evaluating the role of postoperative radiotherapy in head and neck cancer. We also mined through The Cancer Genome Atlas to evaluate expression and survival data. Biological experiments, including cell proliferation, flow cytometry, cell migration and invasion, clonogenic survival, and fluorescent microscopy, were conducted using HN5 and UM-SCC-22B cell lines. miR-125a-5p downregulation was associated with recurrent disease in a panel of high-risk HNSCC and then confirmed poor survival associated with low expression in HNSCC via the Cancer Genome Atlas, suggesting that miR-125a-5p acts as a tumor suppressor miRNA. We then demonstrated that miR-125a-5p regulates cell proliferation through cell cycle regulation at the G1/S transition. We also show that miR-125a-5p can alter cell migration and modulate sensitivity to ionizing radiation. Finally, we identified putative mRNA targets of miR-125a-5p, including ERBB2, EIF4EBP1, and TXNRD1, which support the tumor suppressive mechanism of miR-125a-5p. Functional validation of ERBB2 suggests that miR-125a-5p affects cell proliferation and sensitivity to ionizing radiation, in part, through ERBB2. Our data suggests that miR-125a-5p acts as a tumor suppressor miRNA, has potential as a diagnostic tool and may be a potential therapeutic target for the management and treatment of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research