miR-615-5p is epigenetically inactivated and functions as a tumor suppressor in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

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Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly invasive cancer with a poor prognosis. Although microRNA (miRNA) transcripts have a crucial role in carcinogenesis and development, little information is known regarding the aberrant DNA methylation of miRNAs in PDAC. Using methylated DNA immunoprecipitation-chip analysis, we found that miR-615-5p was hypermethylated in its putative promoter region, which silenced its expression in PDAC cell lines. In addition, the overexpression of miR-615-5p in pancreatic cancer cells suppressed cell proliferation, migration and invasion. Insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) is an imprinted gene, and its abnormal expression contributes to tumor growth. Here, we identified IGF2 as a target of miR-615-5p using a luciferase reporter assay. IGF2 upregulation in PDAC tissues was not correlated with a loss of imprinting but was inversely correlated with miR-615-5p downregulation. In addition, miR-615-5p suppressed pancreatic cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion by directly targeting IGF2, and this effect could be reversed by co-transfection with IGF2. Furthermore, the stable overexpression of miR-615-5p inhibited tumor growth in vivo and was correlated with IGF2 expression. Using RNA sequencing, we further identified miR-615-5p as potentially targeting other genes, such as the proto-oncogene JUNB, and interfering with the insulin signaling pathway. Taken together, our results demonstrate that miR-615-5p was abnormally downregulated in PDAC cells due to promoter hypermethylation, which limited its inhibition of IGF2 and other target genes, thereby contributing to tumor growth, invasion and migration. These data demonstrate a novel and important role of miR-615-5p as a tumor suppressor in PDAC.

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This work was supported by grants from the National Nature Science Foundation of China (Nos 81172267 and 30901627), the National Project For Translational Research Of Early Diagnosis And Comprehensive Treatment In Pancreatic Cancer (201202007) and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (JX10231801).

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Correspondence to W Gao or Z Qian or Y Miao.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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