MA Goldgraben, R Russell, OM Rueda, C Caldas, A Git
MicroRNAs are short (17-26) noncoding RNAs driving or modulating physiological and pathological cellular events. Overexpression of miR-155 is pathogenic in B-cell malignancy but was also reported in a number of solid tumors-in particular, in breast cancer, where its role remains unclear and often contradictory. Using representative cell line models, we sought to determine whether the discrepant miR-155 effects in breast cancer could be explained by the heterogeneity of the disease. The growth of six breast cancer cell lines transfected with several miRNA mimics was analyzed. We found MCF-7 cell growth to be inhibited by miR-155 and miR-145 mimics, both 23-nt long, but not by a number of shorter mimics, including a universal commercial negative control. Microarray and Western blot analyses revealed induction of apoptosis, associated with interferon-β after activation of the double-stranded RNA sensor pathway. 3' Trimming of the miRNA mimics to 21 nt substantially reduced their growth-inhibitory potency. Mutating the canonical seed of the miR-155 mimic had no effect on the induced inhibition, which was abolished by mutating the miRNA seed of the artificial passenger strand. A panel of breast cancer cell lines showed a wide range of sensitivities to 23-mer mimics, broadly consistent with the sensitivity of the cell lines to Poly (I:C). We demonstrate two sources for nonspecific in vitro effects by miRNA mimics: duplex length and the artificial passenger strand. We highlight the danger of a universal 21-mer negative control and the importance of using matched seed mutants for reliable interpretation of phenotypes.