Research Papers:

Hypoxia-responsive miR-210 promotes self-renewal capacity of colon tumor-initiating cells by repressing ISCU and by inducing lactate production

Pit Ullmann, Komal Qureshi-Baig, Fabien Rodriguez, Aurélien Ginolhac, Yannic Nonnenmacher, Dominik Ternes, Jil Weiler, Karoline Gäbler, Christelle Bahlawane, Karsten Hiller, Serge Haan and Elisabeth Letellier _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:65454-65470. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.11772

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Pit Ullmann1, Komal Qureshi-Baig1, Fabien Rodriguez1, Aurélien Ginolhac1, Yannic Nonnenmacher2, Dominik Ternes1, Jil Weiler1, Karoline Gäbler1, Christelle Bahlawane1, Karsten Hiller2, Serge Haan1, Elisabeth Letellier1

1Life Sciences Research Unit, University of Luxembourg, L-4367 Belvaux, Luxembourg

2Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine, L-4367 Belvaux, Luxembourg

Correspondence to:

Elisabeth Letellier, email: [email protected]

Keywords: colorectal cancer, tumor-initiating cell, hypoxia, miR-210, self-renewal capacity

Received: May 20, 2016     Accepted: August 25, 2016     Published: August 31, 2016


Low oxygen concentrations (hypoxia) are known to affect the cellular metabolism and have been suggested to regulate a subpopulation of cancer cells with tumorigenic properties, the so-called tumor-initiating cells (TICs). To better understand the mechanism of hypoxia-induced TIC activation, we set out to study the role of hypoxia-responsive miRNAs in recently established colon cancer patient-derived TICs. We were able to show that low oxygen concentrations consistently lead to the upregulation of miR-210 in different primary TIC-enriched cultures. Both stable overexpression of miR-210 and knockdown of its target gene ISCU resulted in enhanced TIC self-renewal. We could validate the tumorigenic properties of miR- 210 in in vivo experiments by showing that ectopic expression of miR-210 results in increased tumor incidence. Furthermore, enhanced miR-210 expression correlated with reduced TCA cycle activity and increased lactate levels. Importantly, by blocking lactate production via inhibition of LDHA, we could reverse the promoting effect of miR-210 on self-renewal capacity, thereby emphasizing the regulatory impact of the glycolytic phenotype on colon TIC properties. Finally, by assessing expression levels in patient tissue, we could demonstrate the clinical relevance of the miR-210/ISCU signaling axis for colorectal carcinoma. Taken together, our study highlights the importance of hypoxia-induced miR-210 in the regulation of colon cancer initiation.

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