It has been reported that miR-21 is upregulated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and overexpressed miR-21 plays a key role in promoting cell cycle progression, reducing cell death and favoring angiogenesis and invasion. Overexpression of hepatocellular carcinoma, downregulated 1 (HEPN1) exhibits an antiproliferative effect on HepG2 cells, suggesting that silencing of HEPN1 may contribute to carcinogenesis of hepatocytes. In silico analysis revealed that HEPN1 may be a potential target of miR-21. Using quantitative reverse transcription PCR and Western blot, we found that HEPN1 was strikingly downregulated in both mRNA (fold change was 33.5, P < 0.0001) and protein levels in human HCC tumor tissues, in comparison with the adjacent non-tumor tissues. More importantly, the expression level of HEPN1 was inversely correlated with the expression of miR-21 in HCC (R2 = 0.442, P < 0.0001). The combination between the 3′ untranslated region (UTR) of HEPN1 with miR-21 was experimentally verified by a miRNA luciferase reporter approach. The suppressed cell proliferation upon stimulation of miR-21 inhibitor could be partially abolished by knocking down HEPN1, so inhibition of miR-21 expression in HCC cells profoundly suppressed cell proliferation partially by upregulating HEPN1 expression. Taken together, the current study suggested an underlying mechanism that miR-21 directly target HEPN1 and inhibit its expression during the carcinogenesis of HCC. HEPN1 may thus be a candidate as a therapeutic target for patients with HCC.
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This study is supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81171893, Nos. 81201574 and 81172898) and Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions.
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