MicroRNAs and epithelial-mesenchymal transition in prostate cancer

Kirandeep Sekhon, Nathan Bucay, Shahana Majid, Rajvir Dahiya and Sharanjot Saini _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:67597-67611. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.11708

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Kirandeep Sekhon1, Nathan Bucay1, Shahana Majid1, Rajvir Dahiya1 and Sharanjot Saini1

1 Department of Urology, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco and University of California San Francisco, CA, USA

Correspondence to:

Sharanjot Saini, email:

Keywords: microRNAs, prostate cancer, EMT, metastasis, recurrence

Received: May 23, 2016 Accepted: August 25, 2016 Published: August 30, 2016


Prostate cancer (PCa) is a leading cause of male cancer-related deaths. A significant fraction of prostate tumors are very aggressive, often metastasizing to bone, causing significant morbidity and mortality. Also, PCa is associated with high rates of recurrence, often attributed to the existence of cancer stem cells. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process characterized by decreased expression of epithelial genes and increased expression of mesenchymal genes, plays a critical role in tumor invasion, metastasis and recurrence. In PCa, EMT has been implicated particularly in the context of metastatic disease and microRNAs have emerged as critical post-transcriptional regulators of PCa EMT. In this review, we summarize the role of miRNAs in PCa EMT that play a role in progression, metastasis and recurrence. Studies till date suggest that microRNAs mediate efficient and reversible control of PCa EMT via multiple mechanisms including either by (i) directly repressing single or multiple EMT-TFs or regulating cytoskeletal components (epithelial/mesenchymal genes) or (ii) regulating key signaling pathways involved in EMT. Oncogenic microRNAs often act as EMT promoters by repressing epithelial characteristics and tumor suppressive miRNAs act by inhibiting mesenchymal progression. Further, EMT is mechanistically linked to stem cell signatures in PCa and several miRNAs implicated in EMT have been reported to influence PCa stem cells. Loss of EMT-inhibiting miRNAs and/or gain of EMT promoting miRNAs lead to induction of PCa EMT, leading to tumor progression, metastasis and recurrence. Restoring expression of tumor suppressive miRNAs and inhibiting oncogenic miRNAs represent potential therapeutic opportunities to prevent disease metastasis and recurrence.

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