Hepatitis B virus X protein (HBx) plays important roles in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). MicroRNAs (miRNAs) contribute to cancer development by acting as oncogenes or tumor suppressors. Previously, we reported that HBx was able to promote the migration of hepatoma HepG2 cells. However, the regulation of miRNAs in the development of HBV-related HCC is poorly understood. In the present study, we reported that miR-29a was a novel regulator of migration of hepatoma cells mediated by HBx. Our data showed that the expression of miR-29a was dramatically increased in p21-HBx transgenic mice, HBx-transfected hepatoma HepG2-X (or H7402-X) cells and HepG2.2.15 cells that constitutively replicate HBV. However, our data showed that miR-29a was upregulated in 4 of the 11 clinical HCC samples. We found that the overexpression of miR-29a promoted the migration of HepG2 cells, while a specific miR-29a inhibitor could partially abolish the enhanced migration of HepG2-X cells. Moreover, we identified PTEN was one of the target genes of miR-29a in HepG2 cells. The deletion of the miR-29a-binding site was able to abolish the role of miR-29a in suppression of luciferase activity of the PTEN 3′UTR reporter. Meanwhile, the overexpression of PTEN was able to reverse the promoted migration of HepG2 cells mediated by miR-29a. Moreover, our data showed that the modulation of Akt phosphorylation, a downstream factor of PTEN, was involved in the cell migration enhanced by miR-29a, suggesting that miR-29a is responsible for the cell migration through its target gene PTEN. Thus, we conclude that miR-29a is involved in the regulation of migration of hepatoma cells mediated by HBx through PTEN in cell culture model
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