Metastatic renal cancer manifests multiple signatures of gene expression. Deviation in expression of mature miRNAs has been linked to human cancers. Importance of miR-21 in renal cell carcinomas is proposed from profiling studies using tumor tissue samples. However, the role of miR-21 function in causing renal cancer cell proliferation and invasion has not yet been shown. Using cultured renal carcinoma cells, we demonstrate enhanced expression of mature miR-21 along with pre-and pri-miR-21 by increased transcription compared to normal proximal tubular epithelial cells. Overexpression of miR-21 Sponge to quench endogenous miR-21 levels inhibited proliferation, migration and invasion of renal cancer cells. In the absence of mutation in the PTEN tumor suppressor gene, PTEN protein levels are frequently downregulated in renal cancer. We show that miR-21 targets PTEN mRNA 3′untranslated region to decrease PTEN protein expression and augments Akt phosphorylation in renal cancer cells. Downregulation of PTEN as well as overexpression of constitutively active Akt kinase prevented miR-21 Sponge-induced inhibition of renal cancer cell proliferation and migration. Moreover, we show that miR-21 Sponge inhibited the inactivating phosphorylation of the tumor suppressor protein tuberin and attenuated TORC1 activation. Finally, we demonstrate that expression of constitutively active TORC1 attenuated miR-21 Sponge-mediated suppression of proliferation and migration of renal cancer cells. Our results uncover a layer of post-transcriptional regulation of PTEN by transcriptional activation of miR-21 to force the canonical oncogenic Akt/TORC1 signaling conduit to drive renal cancer cell proliferation and invasion.
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