MicroRNAs play crucial roles in gene expression programmes and have been demonstrated to have major influence in various biological processes. Recent findings suggest aberrant regulation of microRNAs is a hall mark of many cancers including leukemia. MicroRNA-223 (miR-223) is regulated by the transcription factor CCAAT enhancer binding protein α (C/EBPα) and is upregulated during granulopoiesis. miR-223 mutant mice display defects in granulopoiesis pointing out the importance of miR-223 during granulopoiesis. Recent studies suggest that loss of function or expression of C/ EBPα is a major step in the development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Using an inducible cell line model, we show that C/EBPα upregulates microRNA-223 expression during granulopoiesis. Based on these findings, we hypothesized that miR-223 could be downregulated in human AML. Here we report that miR-223 is downregulated in different subtypes of AML as analysed by quantitative Real-Time RT-PCR. We investigated what are the critical targets of miR-223 during granulopoiesis. Computational analysis suggests that E2F1, the transcription factor that promotes cell cycle progression which is inhibited by C/EBPα during granulopoiesis, could be a putative target of miR-223. By luciferase assay using 3’UTR of E2F1, we show that E2F1 is a potential target of miR-223. miR-223 downregulates E2F1 by translational repression as revealed by reduction in E2F1 protein level. Silencing of miR-223 leads to upregulation of E2F1 protein level as analyzed by Western blot analysis. Proliferation assays as well as cell cycle analysis demonstrate that miR-223 blocks cell cycle progression in myeloid cells. Interestingly, sequence analysis of miR-223 promoter revealed putative E2F1 binding sites. We demonstrate that E2F1 inhibits the microRNA-223 promoter activity through its transactivation domain as shown by promoter assay. Furthermore, overexpression of E2F1 down regulates the expression of miR-223, suggesting E2F1 acting as a transcriptional repressor of the miR-223 gene. Meanwhile, C/EBPα transactivates miR-223 promoter activity. We also report that E2F1 is able to block granulocytic differentiation. Recent studies demonstrate that disruption of E2F1 inhibition by C/EBPα leads to leukemia, pointing out the significance of E2F1 inhibition in the development of AML. Our data support a circuitry comprising miR-223, C/EBPα and E2F1 as major components of the granulocyte differentiation programme, which is deregulated in AML. Manipulation of miR-223 could be therapeutically relevant in AML subtypes in which E2F1 inhibition is deregulated.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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