Local or distant metastasis remains the main course of death in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in metastasis of HNSCC, but the mechanisms of their action are mainly undocumented. Through public head and neck cancer miRNA expression datasets, we found that miR-876-5p was a novel potential tumor suppressor targeting HNSCC metastasis.
Clinical significance and mechanism of miR-876-5P was systematically analyzed in HNSCC. Quantitative RT-PCR was used to evaluate miR-876-5p levels in HNSCC cell lines and in 20 pairs of HNSCC with associated regional nodal metastases and HNSCC without metastatic primary tumors. Scratch and invasion assays were evaluated to determine the role of miR-876-5p in the regulation of HNSCC cell migration and invasion, respectively. Western blotting was used to investigate the mechanism by which miR-876-5p suppresses HNSCC cell invasion and migration. Luciferase assays were performed to assess miR-876-5p binding to the vimentin gene. The animal model was used to support the in vitro experimental findings.
MiR-876-5p mimics inhibited HNSCC cell migration and invasion. Vimentin protein and mRNA levels were decreased in the miR-876-5p mimics group but increased in the miR-876-5p inhibitors group, which demonstrated that miR-876-5p inhibits vimentin expression in HNSCC cells. By directly targeting the vimentin 3′-UTR, we used dual-luciferase reporter assays to verify that vimentin is a functional downstream target of miR-876-5p. Importantly, increased vimentin expression promoted cell migration and invasion, and co-transfection with miR-876-5p mimics and vimentin restored cell aggressiveness to the original level. Moreover, miR-876-5p overexpression significantly downregulated vimentin expression level and inhibited the distal metastasis of HNSCC cells in vivo.
miR-876-5p, which functions as a tumor suppressor in HNSCC, inhibits metastasis by targeting vimentin and provides a novel therapeutic target for HNSCC treatment.