miR-146a Exerts Differential Effects on Melanoma Growth and Metastatization

 

Monica Raimo, Francesca Orso, Elena Grassi, Daniela Cimino, Elisa Penna, Cristiano De Pitta, Michael B. Stadler, Luca Primo, Enzo Calautti, Pietro Quaglino, Paolo Provero, and Daniela Taverna

 

 

 

Abstract

Malignant melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer; therefore, it is crucial to disclose its underlying molecular mechanisms. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small endogenous noncoding RNAs able to posttranscriptionally downregulate the expression of direct target genes. Using a melanoma progression model, miR-146a was identified as a key double-acting player in melanoma malignancy. In fact, miR-146a is able to enhance tumor growth, while it suppresses dissemination. It was determined that miR-146a coordinated melanoma cell growth by its direct targets lunatic fringe (LFNG) and NUMB, which operate on the NOTCH/PTEN/Akt pathway; while inhibition of metastasis formation was linked to decreased expression of ITGAV and ROCK1. Relevantly, miR-146a expression correlated with melanoma recurrence and was enriched in both patient-derived melanoma and cutaneous metastasis specimens, while its direct targets were depleted. However, miR-146a levels drop in circulating tumor cells (CTCs), suggesting the necessity for miR-146a expression to fluctuate during tumor progression in order to favor tumor growth and allow dissemination. This study reconciles the contradictory biologic functions of miR-146a in melanoma progression and unravels distinct molecular mechanisms that need to be considered for therapeutic interventions.
Implications: miR-146a controls melanoma progression in a dual way, promoting growth and inhibiting dissemination;
however, it is poorly expressed in CTCs, resulting in overall tumor spreading and distant-site colonization. Mol Cancer Res;
14(6); 548–62. 2016 AACR.