MicroRNAs (miRNA) are noncoding RNA molecules that regulate the synthesis of proteins and, if dysregulated, can result in development of various form of cancers. We have found that miR-130a is highly expressed in immature proliferating granulocytic precursors. In more mature granulocytes the miR-130a expression is significant lower. In acute myeloid leukemia the granulocyte precursors have lost the ability to undergo terminal maturation, leading to accumulation of non-functional, immature granulocytes (myeloblasts). We hypothesize that a sustained high expression of miR-130a during granulopoiesis may sustain continuous cell proliferation. TGF-β is a strong inhibitor of cell proliferation and lack of TGF-β expression is associated with various form of cancer. Smad4 is an essential compound in the TGF-β signaling pathway. Using microRNA target-prediction software, we identified Smad4 as a putative target for miR-130a. This was confirmed experimentally by demonstrating that transient overexpression of miR-130a results in reduction in the amount of Smad4 protein. Luciferase reporter constructs with the 3`-UTR of Smad4 also respond to miR-130a – an effect that is abolished by point mutations in the miRNA–binding site. In agreement, we observed that stable overexpression of miR-130a in a granulocytic cell line reduces the level of Smad4 protein, and render the cells less sensitive to TGF-β-induced growth inhibition. This was also confirmed with cell cycles analysis. Furthermore, the effect was diminished when transfecting the same clones with SMAD4 lacking the 3-‘UTR. In line with our hypothesis, the most immature granulocyte precursors demonstrate the highest expression of miR-130a is highest, and the lowest expression of Smad4 protein. As the granulocyte precursors mature, the expression of miR-130a decreases dramatically whereas the level of Smad4 protein expression increases demonstrating inverse correlation between miR-130a and Smad4 protein. The level of Smad4 mRNA is comparable at all stages of granulopoiesis. High miR-130a levels and low or no expression of Smad4 was found in primary cells from patients with acute myeloid leukemia and in a cell line (Kasumi-1) with the t(8;21)(q22;q22) chromosomal translocation. The level of Smad4 increased in Kasumi-1 cells when the endogenous level of miR-130a was inhibited by anti-miR-130a LNA. Our data indicate that miR-130a is involved in cell cycle regulation of normal and malignant granulocytic cells through engagement of Smad4 in the TGF-β-pathway. Grant acknowledgment: Lundbeck foundation, Carlsberg foundation, Swedish Research Council.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.