, Volume 58, Issue 12, pp 3483-3493
Date: 25 Sep 2013

Down-Regulation of PTEN Expression Modulated by Dysregulated miR-21 Contributes to the Progression of Esophageal Cancer

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Background and Aim

miR-21, a putative tumor oncomiR, is a frequently overexpressed miRNA in a variety of tumors. Because it targets tumor-suppressor genes it has been linked to tumor progression. In this study we investigated the role of miR-21 in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), and its possible mechanism.


Expression of miR-21 was detected by stem–loop RT-PCR in tissue from 76 invasive ESCC at stage I–IV and in their corresponding para-cancerous histological normal tissues (PCHNT). Thirty endoscopic esophageal mucosal biopsy specimens from non-tumor patients were used as controls. Expression of PTEN in 76 paired ESCC and PCHNT was investigated by real-time RT-PCR and an immunohistochemical method, respectively. Paired tumor and PCHNT specimens of 20 ESCC cases were randomly selected for western blot analysis. The effect of miR-21 on PTEN expression was assessed in the ESCC cell line with an miR-21 inhibitor to reduce miR-21 expression. Furthermore, the roles of miR-21 in cell biology were analyzed by use of miR-21 inhibitor-transfected cells.


Stem–loop RT-PCR revealed miR-21 was significantly overexpressed in ESCC tissues and cell lines. Overexpression of miR-21 correlated with tumor status, lymph node metastasis, and clinical stage. We demonstrated that knockdown of miR-21 significantly increased expression of PTEN protein. Consequent PTEN expression reduced cell proliferation, invasion, and migration.


Our findings suggest that miR-21 could be a potential oncomiR, probably by regulation of PTEN, and a novel prognostic factor for ESCC patients.