Compared with the luminal subtype, the basal-like subtype of breast cancer has an aggressive clinical behavior, but the reasons for this difference between the two subtypes are poorly understood. We identified microRNAs (miRNAs) miR-221 and miR-222 (miR-221/222) as basal-like subtype-specific miRNAs that decrease expression of epithelial-specific genes and increase expression of mesenchymal-specific genes. In addition, expression of these miRNAs increased cell migration and invasion, which collectively are characteristics of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The basal-like transcription factor FOSL1 (also known as Fra-1) directly stimulated the transcription of miR-221/222, and the abundance of these miRNAs decreased with inhibition of MEK (mitogen-activated or extracellular signal–regulated protein kinase kinase), placing miR-221/222 downstream of the RAS pathway. The miR-221/222–mediated reduction in E-cadherin abundance depended on their targeting of the 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of TRPS1 (tricho-rhino-phalangeal syndrome type 1), which is a member of the GATA family of transcriptional repressors. TRPS1 inhibited EMT by directly repressing expression of ZEB2 (Zinc finger E-box–binding homeobox 2). Therefore, miR-221/222 may contribute to the aggressive clinical behavior of basal-like breast cancers.
Full article available 16 August 2011, Vol. 4, Issue 186, pp. pt5