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Roles of microRNA on cancer cell metabolism

Bing Chen1, Hongbin Li1, Xiao Zeng1, Pengbo Yang1, Xinyu Liu1, Xia Zhao12 and Shufang Liang1*

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, No.17, third section of Renmin South Road, Chengdu 610041, People’s Republic China

2 Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, West China Second Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, 610041, People’s Republic China

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2012, 10:228  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-10-228

Published: 20 November 2012


Advanced studies of microRNAs (miRNAs) have revealed their manifold biological functions, including control of cell proliferation, cell cycle and cell death. However, it seems that their roles as key regulators of metabolism have drawn more and more attention in the recent years. Cancer cells display increased metabolic autonomy in comparison to non-transformed cells, taking up nutrients and metabolizing them in pathways that support growth and proliferation. MiRNAs regulate cell metabolic processes through complicated mechanisms, including directly targeting key enzymes or transporters of metabolic processes and regulating transcription factors, oncogenes / tumor suppressors as well as multiple oncogenic signaling pathways. MiRNAs like miR-375, miR-143, miR-14 and miR-29b participate in controlling cancer cell metabolism by regulating the expression of genes whose protein products either directly regulate metabolic machinery or indirectly modulate the expression of metabolic enzymes, serving as master regulators, which will hopefully lead to a new therapeutic strategy for malignant cancer. This review focuses on miRNA regulations of cancer cell metabolism,including glucose uptake, glycolysis, tricarboxylic acid cycle and insulin production, lipid metabolism and amino acid biogenesis, as well as several oncogenic signaling pathways. Furthermore, the challenges of miRNA-based strategies for cancer diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutics have been discussed.

MicroRNA; Cell metabolism; MiRNA biomarker