nature medicine advance online publication
The p53 tumor suppressor is activated after a wide variety of genoto-
xic stresses, resulting in cell cycle arrest, apoptosis or senescence1,2.
Inactivation of p53 is a common event in cancer3,4 and attempts to
reactivate p53 function are being vigorously pursued as cancer thera-
peutics5–8. However, in some cancers, including more than 99% of pri-
mary neuroblastomas, TP53 remains wild type9. After treatment with
chemotherapy, alterations in p53 pathway components are frequently
found to occur in neuroblastomas9. This suggests that complete inac-
tivation of the p53 pathway is required for tumor cells to survive
chemotherapy. How wild-type p53 can be tolerated by neuroblastoma
cells before treatment is unclear, suggesting that other mechanisms
exist to attenuate p53 function.
Changes in the abundance of p53 can modulate p53-mediated
transcription10,11 and the resulting biological outputs, such as
apoptosis12–14. Even modest decreases in p53 abundance can lead to
greatly reduced activation of a p53 reporter gene in vivo15. Notably,
50% of the tumors that form in Trp53+/− mice retain the wild-type
Trp53 allele16, suggesting that a modest reduction in wild-type p53
The TP53 mRNA has a complex 3′ UTR, and highly conserved
sequences within the 3′ UTR control TP53 translation through poorly
understood mechanisms17. MiRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that
control gene expression by regulating mRNA translation, stability or
both, typically by binding regions of homology in the 3′ UTR of target
mRNAs18. Several miRNAs with validated roles in the promotion or
suppression of neoplasia have been identified19,20.
Here we show that p53 is regulated in human cancer by miR-380-5p.
We find that this miRNA is highly expressed in the majority of primary
1Cancer Research Program, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. 2St. Vincent’s Clinical School, University of New South Wales,
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. 3G.W. Hooper Research Foundation, University of California–San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. 4Division of Genetics &
Population Health, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 5Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Sydney, New South Wales,
Australia. 6School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. 7Department of Medicine,
University of California–San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. 8Biomedical Sciences Program, University of California–San Francisco, San Francisco,
California, USA. 9Children’s Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. 10Department of Urology, University of California–
San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. 11Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research and Center for Reproductive
Sciences, University of California–San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. 12Children’s Cancer Research Unit, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead,
Westmead, New South Wales, Australia. 13Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA. 14Regulus Therapeutics, San
Diego, California, USA. 15Department of Neurology University of California–San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. 16Department of Pediatrics, University of
California–San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. 17Center for Neuroscience, University of California–Davis, Davis, California, USA. 18Helen Diller Cancer
Center, University of California–San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA. 19Liver Center, University of California–San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.
20These authors contributed equally to this work. Correspondence should be addressed to A.G. (email@example.com) or A. Swarbrick (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Received 14 December 2009; accepted 27 August 2010; published online 26 September 2010; doi:10.1038/nm.2227
miR-380-5p represses p53 to control cellular survival
and is associated with poor outcome in
Alexander Swarbrick1,2,20, Susan L Woods3,4,20, Alexander Shaw1,5,6, Asha Balakrishnan7, Yuwei Phua1,2,
Akira Nguyen1, Yvan Chanthery8, Lionel Lim8, Lesley J Ashton9, Robert L Judson8, Noelle Huskey8,
Robert Blelloch10,11, Michelle Haber9, Murray D Norris9, Peter Lengyel7, Christopher S Hackett8,
Thomas Preiss2,5,6, Albert Chetcuti12, Christopher S Sullivan13, Eric G Marcusson14, William Weiss15,16,
Noelle L’Etoile17 & Andrei Goga7,18,19
Inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway allows cell survival in times of stress and occurs in many human cancers;
however, normal embryonic stem cells and some cancers such as neuroblastoma maintain wild-type human TP53 and mouse
Trp53 (referred to collectively as p53 herein). Here we describe a miRNA, miR-380-5p, that represses p53 expression via a
conserved sequence in the p53 3′ untranslated region (UTR). miR-380-5p is highly expressed in mouse embryonic stem cells
and neuroblastomas, and high expression correlates with poor outcome in neuroblastomas with neuroblastoma derived v-myc
myelocytomatosis viral-related oncogene (MYCN) amplification. miR-380 overexpression cooperates with activated HRAS
oncoprotein to transform primary cells, block oncogene-induced senescence and form tumors in mice. Conversely, inhibition of
endogenous miR-380-5p in embryonic stem or neuroblastoma cells results in induction of p53, and extensive apoptotic cell death.
In vivo delivery of a miR-380-5p antagonist decreases tumor size in an orthotopic mouse model of neuroblastoma. We demonstrate
a new mechanism of p53 regulation in cancer and stem cells and uncover a potential therapeutic target for neuroblastoma.
advance online publication nature medicine
neuroblastomas and functions as a proto-oncogene in a mouse mam-
mary transplant model. miR-380-5p is predicted to bind to a highly
conserved region in the TP53 3′ UTR. Inhibition of miR-380-5p
results in upregulation of p53 in embryonic stem (ES) and neurob-
lastoma cells and the induction of apoptosis, as well as diminished
tumor growth in vivo. Our results identify a new therapeutic approach
to reactivate p53 in neuroblastoma.
The TP53 3′UTR has two potential binding sites for miR-380-5p
We identified a 104-bp region of high homology in the p53 3′ UTR
shared across human, mouse, rat and hamster species but not con-
served in nonmammalian species (Fig. 1a). This corresponds to
nucleotides (582–685) of the human TP53 3′ UTR. Human and mouse
TP53 and Trp53 3′ UTRs share 78% identity within this region. This
is similar to the 84% identity found when comparing the coding por-
tion of human TP53 exon 11 with the corresponding sequence from
mouse, suggesting that this region of the 3′ UTR may have func-
tional importance. With the miRanda algorithm21 we identified two
predicted adjacent target sites for miR-380-5p within the conserved
3′ UTR region (Fig. 1a) at a spacing previously reported to enhance
cooperative repression22. Local RNA structure is proposed to regulate
the efficiency of miRNA binding to target UTRs23,24. The sequence
of both putative binding sites featured a preponderance of adjacent
destabilizing structures (loops, single-stranded regions and free ends)
and only short stem structures, features preferred for miRNA–3′ UTR
interactions (Supplementary Table 1).
miR-380-5p is encoded within a large miRNA cluster found in an
imprinted region of human 14q32 (ref. 25). We detected abundant
miR-380 expression in mouse embryonic tissue, human fetal tissue
and adult human brain (Fig. 1b), tissues in which p53 has key roles26,
but not in other adult tissues. miR-380-5p was also highly expressed
in mouse ES cells and P19 embryonic carcinoma cells, as determined
by quantitative RT-PCR (Fig. 1c). Human breast MCF10A cells do
not express detectable miR-380-5p, and we used them as a negative
control line (Fig. 1c). MiR-380-5p expression was maintained in
mouse ES cells differentiated in culture to Sox1+ neural progeni-
tors and Tuj1+ neurons, but not in cultures containing predomi-
nantly Gfap+ astrocytes (Fig. 1d–g). Thus, miR-380-5p is not simply
a marker of undifferentiated cells but is also expressed through
miR-380-5p suppresses p53 and apoptosis in stem cells
To examine the function of endogenous miR-380-5p, we used a
locked nucleic acid (LNA)-modified antisense oligomer to inhibit
miR-380-5p (LNA-380). Transfection of LNA-380, but not a control
LNA, partially relieved repression of a luciferase reporter with three
perfect miR-380-5p binding sites in the 3′ UTR (Fig. 2a). Activity of
a control reporter after transfection of miR-380-5p alone or with con-
trol LNA or LNA-380 was not changed (data not shown). Transfection
of mouse ES cells with LNA-380 resulted in changes in ES cell mor-
phology, diminished colony size, an increased number of nonadher-
ent cells after 8 h (data not shown), and substantial cell death 24 h
after treatment (Fig. 2b). Although Trp53−/− ES cells express simi-
lar levels of miR-380-5p to their wild-type counterparts, LNA-380
treatment of Trp53−/− ES cells did not induce cell death (Fig. 2b,c),
demonstrating a requirement for p53 in cell death induced by LNA-
380. Inhibition of miR-380-5p was accompanied by the upregulation
of p53 protein and the apoptotic marker cleaved poly(ADP)-ribose
polymerase (PARP) (Fig. 2d) in wild-type ES cells but not Trp53−/−
cells. We observed this effect over a range of LNA-380 concentrations
but not in wild-type ES cells treated with a variety of scrambled and
other control LNAs (Supplementary Fig. 1a–c). As an additional
control, we tested whether mature miRNAs are required for induction
of p53 expression by LNA-380. ES cells that are deficient in mature
miRNA species (including miR-380-5p, Fig. 2c) owing to homolo-
gous deletion of DiGeorge syndrome critical region-8 (Dgcr8), remain
responsive to genotoxic shock, and p53 expression is induced after
ultraviolet irradiation (Fig. 2d). However, treatment of Dgcr8−/− ES
M. musculus AGTTGTCAGGTCTCTGCTGGCCCAGCGAAATTCTATC---CAGCCAGTTGTTGGACCCTGGCACCTACAATGAAATCTCACCCTACCCCACACCCTGTAAGATTC----
miR-380_5p relative expression
miR-380_5p relative expression
Figure 1 The p53 3′ UTR contains binding sites for miR-380-5p, a
developmentally restricted miRNA. (a) Alignment of human, mouse, rat
and hamster p53 3′ UTRs, identifying a highly conserved 104-bp region.
The predicted miR-380-5p binding sites are indicated in red. (b) Northern
blot of miR-380 using total RNA from mouse embryonic, human fetal and
adult tissues. (c) Quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis of miR-380-5p
expression in normal brain, embryonic carcinoma (P19) and mouse ES
cells. (d) qRT-PCR analysis showing miR-380-5p expression in ES cells
differentiated to the neuronal lineage. (e) Immunofluorescent staining for
Sox1 (green) in cultures of neural progenitor cells. Scale bar, 65 µm.
(f,g) Immunofluorescent staining for an early neuronal marker, Tuj1 (red),
and a marker of astrocytes, GFAP (green), in differentiated cultures of
neurons (f) and astrocytes (g). Scale bars: 150 µm (f); 100 µm (g). In c and
d, error bars depict s.d.; in d, independent biological replicates indicated by
separate bars. *P < 0.0002.
nature medicine advance online publication
cells with LNA-380 did not induce p53 expression (Fig. 2d). Together,
these data show that inhibition of endogenous miR-380-5p in ES cells
results in upregulation of p53 and apoptotic cell death. At just 4 h
after transfection of ES cells with LNA-380, cell morphology is indis-
tinguishable from control LNA-treated cells (data not shown); how-
ever, p53 abundance is already increased (Supplementary Fig. 1d).
This increase in p53 protein is not due to stabilization of the pro-
tein, as the half-life of p53 is unchanged in LNA-380–treated cells
compared to LNA-control–treated cells (Supplementary Fig. 1e). In
contrast, 4 h after ultraviolet irradiation, p53 protein was robustly
stabilized (Supplementary Fig. 1e). Amounts of the p53 regulators
p19ARF, Mdm2 and Chek2 were unchanged by LNA-380 treatment
(Supplementary Fig. 1f).
Treatment of ES cells with ultraviolet radiation leads to the rapid
accumulation of p53 (Supplementary Fig. 1g). Of note, endo-
genous expression of miR-380-5p but not another miRNA from the
same genomic cluster (miR-323) or an unrelated miRNA (miR-16)
decreased in a manner inversely correlated with p53 protein
expression (Supplementary Fig. 1g). Although little is known about
the transcriptional control and regulation of mature miR-380-5p
stability, this suggests that ES cells have an built-in mechanism to
minimize miR-380-5p levels in situations of cellular stress.
Ectopic expression of miR-380 is sufficient to suppress p53
We transfected human MCF10A cells, which express wild-type p53
but not detectable miR-380-5p, with miR-380-5p or a nontargeting
control miRNA mimic (Supplementary Fig. 2a). Expression of
miR-380-5p resulted in a significant ~40% decrease in basal p53
protein levels (Fig. 3a,b). UV irradiation led to a dose-dependent
increase in p53 protein expression that was suppressed by the expres-
sion of miR-380-5p (Fig. 3a,b). There was no significant difference
in TP53 mRNA levels after miR-380-5p overexpression (Fig. 3c),
suggesting a predominant role for the miRNA in the regulation of
TP53 translation rather than mRNA stability. For comparison, we
transfected cells with miR-125b, which has recently been suggested
to target p53 (ref. 27), but we did not detect a significant effect of
miR-125b on either TP53 mRNA or protein levels (Supplementary
Fig. 2b,c). We obtained similar results with MCF7 and MCF10A
cell lines that stably express miR-380 or a scrambled miRNA con-
trol (Supplementary Fig. 2d–g). Together with our data from ES
cells (Fig. 2 and Supplementary Fig. 1), these results suggest that
miR-380-5p acts to directly regulate p53 translation rather than the
stability of the mRNA or protein.
We next asked whether miR-380 expression directly regulates p53
protein expression via the conserved 104-bp element within the TP53
3′ UTR predicted to encode the two miR-380-5p binding sites (Fig. 1a).
Dead cells (% total)
WT ES Trp53–/– ES
Figure 2 miR-380-5p is required for ES cell survival. (a) Activity of a
miR-380 reporter either alone or after transfection with a control LNA
(LNA-Ctrl) or an LNA directed against miR-380-5p (LNA-380).
(b) Left, amount of ES cell death 24h after transfection of wild-type
(WT) or Trp53−/− ES cells with LNA-Ctrl or LNA-380. Right, cell images
24 h post transfection with LNA-Ctrl or LNA-380. (c) qRT-PCR analysis
of relative miR-380-5p expression in WT, Trp53−/− and Dgcr8−/− ES cells.
(d) Western blots showing p53 induction and PARP cleavage (indicated
by the arrow) after knockdown of miR-380-5p by LNA-380 compared to
LNA-ctrl–transfected wild-type, Trp53−/− and Dgcr8−/− ES cells that were
ultraviolet irradiated (UV). In a, b and d, results are from at least three
independent experiments (performed in triplicate in c). In a–c, error bars
depict s.d. *P < 0.00002; **P < 0.00007; ***P < 0.0004; NS, not
significant. Scale bars, 200 µm.
Relative TP53 mRNA
Relative cell death
Relative p53 protein
5 mJ UV
15 mJ UV
Relative cell death
Figure 3 miR-380-5p targets p53 and decreases cell death after genotoxic stress. (a) Western blot showing p53 expression in MCF10a cells transfected
with either a scrambled (SC) miRNA or miR-380-5p. (b) Quantification of p53 protein in MCF10a cells transfected with SC miRNA or miR-380-5p with
or without UV treatment, normalized to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH). (c) qRT-PCR analysis of TP53 mRNA in MCF10a cells
after expression of miR-380, normalized to GAPDH levels. (d) Luciferase activity of TP53 3′UTR reporters after expression of miR-380. (e,f) Relative
cell death of MCF10a cell populations stably expressing miR-380 or SC 24 h after treatment with ultraviolet light (e) or cisplatin (f). Error bars depict
s.e.m. (b,c) or s.d. (d–f). a,b and d–f are results from at least three independent repeats; In c experiments were performed in triplicate. *P < 0.0009,
**P < 0.03, ***P < 0.002, ****P < 0.05, *****P < 0.03, ******P < 0.001.
advance online publication nature medicine
We generated a luciferase reporter construct that contains a single
104-bp wild-type human TP53 element downstream of the luciferase
open reading frame (WT-p53) or a reporter construct in which the nucle-
otides complementary to the miR-380-5p seed sequences were deleted
(MUT-p53). These reporter constructs lack the remainder of the TP53 3′
UTR that contains other previously identified translational regulatory
elements28,29. When the WT-p53 reporter was transfected along with
miR-380 into human embryonic kidney cells, luciferase activity was
decreased ~30% compared to cells transfected with a control vector
(Fig. 3d). Suppression of luciferase activity was not observed when
the MUT-p53 reporter was transfected with miR-380 (Fig. 3d). Thus,
miR-380-5p can directly attenuate translation via elements found in
the TP53 3′ UTR.
We next asked whether miR-380 overexpression can regulate apop-
tosis. Twenty-four hours after treatment with two different DNA dam-
aging agents, ultraviolet light or cisplatin, we observed significantly
more cell death in control cells than in those expressing miR-380
(Fig. 3e,f). We saw no appreciable cell death in the absence of ultra-
violet light or cisplatin treatment (data not shown).
miR-380 blocks senescence and acts as an oncogene in vivo
A stringent test of oncogene function in cancer is the ability to induce
tumor formation de novo in mouse models. Loss of p53 function
cooperates with activated HRAS expression to induce a variety of
tumors, including mammary cancers30,31. We tested whether expres-
sion of miR-380 can similarly cooperate with activated HRAS to
transform primary mouse mammary epithelial cells (MMECs). The
unique biology of the mammary gland enabled us to use a trans-
plantation technique that rapidly generates transgenic mammary
glands in vivo32 and can be used as an in vivo model of cellular
transformation in a system with an intact p53 pathway. MMECs
from naive FVB/N mice were collected and cultured for 72 h, dur-
ing which time the cells were infected with a retrovirus encoding
activated HRAS and retrovirus encoding various small RNAs. Cells
were subsequently transplanted into the cleared mammary fat pad
of syngeneic mice (Supplementary Fig. 3a). Expression of activated
HRAS with either miR-380 or a small hairpin RNA that specifically
targets mouse Trp5333 (shRNA p53) resulted in downregulation of a
key transcriptional target of p53, Cdkn1a (also known as p21waf1); in
contrast to cells expressing activated HRAS and a scrambled control
miRNA (Supplementary Fig. 3b). Mice receiving MMECs express-
ing activated HRAS plus a control retrovirus infrequently developed
small tumors (Fig. 4a). In contrast, expression of activated HRAS
with either miR-380 or shRNA p53 resulted in a substantially greater
frequency of tumor formation (Fig. 4a). We saw no significant
differences in tumor latency or growth rates between the shRNA
p53 and miR-380 groups (Supplementary Fig. 3c). Expression of
miR-125b with activated HRAS resulted in even fewer tumors than
in the control mice (Fig. 4a), consistent with a role for miR-125b in
attenuating the proliferation of breast epithelium34. We observed
elevated levels of miR-380-5p expression in all tumors tested
(Fig. 4b), and the average expression across these tumors was within
the physiological range of expression observed in primary neurob-
lastomas (Supplementary Fig. 4a).
Tumors expressing activated HRAS plus control viral constructs
were cystic in nature and mostly comprised inflammatory cell infil-
trates (Fig. 4c). In contrast, miR-380 or shRNA p53 expression together
with activated HRAS resulted in solid rather than cystic tumors that
were comprised predominantly of epithelial cells (Fig. 4c). Activated
HRAS has been shown to induce senescence in a variety of tumor
models in a p53-dependent manner8,30. Tumor cells expressing acti-
vated HRAS plus control (empty vector or scrambled control) stained
positive for senescence-associated β-galactosidase (Fig. 4c). In con-
trast, tumors expressing HRAS plus miR-380 or shRNA p53 did not
express senescence markers (Fig. 4c). p21waf1 expression was higher in
wild-type mouse mammary epithelial cells and tumor cells expressing
activated HRAS plus control viral constructs, than in tumor cells that
expressed HRAS and miR-380 or shRNA p53 (Fig. 4c,d). These data
are consistent with a role for miR-380 in promoting mammary tum-
origenesis by suppressing the p53- and p21waf1-dependent oncogene-
induced senescence program initiated by activated HRAS.
miR-380-5p and outcome in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma
Virtually all neuroblastomas have wild-type TP53 before treatment
with chemotherapy, suggesting that the p53 pathway may be attenuated
HRAS + control
Relative p21 expression
HRAS + p53shRNA HRAS + miR-380
Figure 4 miR-380 prevents oncogene-induced senescence and increases
tumor incidence in a mouse mammary cancer model. (a) The incidence
of palpable mammary tumors (1 tumor per mouse) arising from cells
infected with the indicated miRNA-encoding retrovirus plus HRASV12
after 6 weeks, control group with empty vector or expressing scrambled
control (vector/SC). n = 15; miR-125b, n = 10; miR-380, n = 15; p53
shRNA, n = 17. (b) qRT-PCR of mature miR-380-5p in tumors arising
from cells infected with HRASV12 and miR-380 or p53 shRNA virus.
MCF10a cells that stably express miR-380 or a scrambled miRNA are
shown as controls. (c) Immunohistochemical staining of mammary
tumors. SA-β-gal, senescence-associated β-galactosidase. (d) qRT-PCR
for p21waf1 expression normalized to GAPDH in tumors arising from cells
infected with HRASV12 and p53 shRNA or miR-380 retrovirus compared
to the primary MMECs. In b and d, error bars depict s.d.; each column
represents a separate tumor. Scale bars, 100 µm.
nature medicine advance online publication
by another mechanism in these tumors35. We examined miR-380-5p
and p53 expression in neuroblastoma cell lines and found that a
majority express readily detectable levels of miR-380-5p, and cell
lines with wild-type TP53 generally had low expression of p53 protein
(Supplementary Fig. 4b).
The MYCN gene is frequently amplified in human neuroblasto-
mas, and overexpression of MYCN in transgenic mice directed by the
tyrosine hydroxlase promoter (TH-MYCN) gives rise to neuroblasto-
mas that recapitulate many features of the human disease36. Despite
p53 being functional in these neuroblastomas, p53-driven apoptosis
is minimal. Treatment of tumor-bearing mice with chemotherapy
causes induction of p53, apoptosis and complete tumor remission37.
TH-MYCN transgenic mice are among the most widely used in vivo
models of human neuroblastoma, having been used extensively as
a preclinical model with a proven good record in therapeutic vali-
dation37–41. These tumors are diverse primary cancers that, unlike
cell lines, have not been through experimental clonal selection and
years of in vitro culture. Notably, the mature miR-380-5p sequence
and both miR-380-5p targets in the p53 3′ UTR are highly conserved
between humans and mice. In the TH-MYCN transgenic neuroblas-
toma model, we found that miR-380-5p expression was on average
five fold higher in primary tumors compared to benign sympathetic
nervous tissue taken from either wild-type or MYCN-transgenic mice
before the onset of disease (Fig. 5a).
We next examined miR-380-5p abundance in 205 primary human
neuroblastoma samples collected from subjects before treatment
with chemotherapy and compared it to human brain, the normal
adult tissue with the highest expression of miR-380-5p (Fig. 1b). We
found that miR-380-5p was readily detectable in 203 (99%) of 205
primary neuroblastomas (Fig. 5b) and substantially overexpressed,
relative to normal brain, in 155 (76%) of 205 primary neuroblastoma
samples (Fig. 5b). Expression of miR-380-5p did not correlate with
individual age or tumor stage; however, tumors with MYCN amplifica-
tion had significantly lower expression of miR-380-5p (P < 0.001). In
these individuals, high miR-380-5p expression was associated with
a significantly poorer outcome than in those with low expression
of miR-380-5p (Fig. 5c; P = 0.004). In individuals without MYCN-
amplified tumors, miR-380-5p expression was not associated with
clinical outcome (Supplementary Fig. 4c). Furthermore, by analyzing
miR-380 expression in both primary and secondary tumors, we con-
clude that miR-380-5p expression is maintained in distant metastases
(Supplementary Fig. 4d). The finding that individuals whose tumors
have both MYCN amplification and miR-380-5p overexpression
have especially poor outcomes is consistent with data from various
experimental model systems showing cooperation between MYC over-
expression and attenuation of the p53 pathway in tumorigenesis.
miR-380-5p attenuates p53 function in neuroblastoma
The association of miR-380-5p expression with poor outcome
in human neuroblastoma samples suggested a functional role in
tumorigenesis. We transfected LNA-380 or two LNA controls
into the MYCN-amplified NBL-WS human neuroblastoma cell
line, which retains wild-type TP53, and examined cell prolifera-
tion and p53 expression. Inhibition of miR-380-5p resulted in a
marked upregulation of p53 and p21waf1 and PARP cleavage (Fig. 6a
and Supplementary Fig. 4e). Diminished cellular viability after
LNA-380 treatment was more pronounced than after treatment with
the chemotherapeutic doxorubicin in these cells (Fig. 6b,c). Inhibition
of miR-380-5p also resulted in p53 induction and impaired cellular
proliferation in another TP53–wild-type human neuroblastoma cell
line, SHEP (Supplementary Fig. 4f,g). In contrast, the BE(2)C line,
taken from an individual at relapse and in which TP53 has acquired
an inactivating mutation35, did not show any changes in cell viability
in response to LNA-380 transfection (Fig. 6a,c). We conclude that
miR-380-5p expression has a key role in suppressing wild-type p53
in human neuroblastoma.
miR-380-5p antagonist causes diminished tumor growth
We next examined whether miR-380-5p antagonists could alter the
growth of neuroblastoma in vivo in a relevant orthotopic model.
For this purpose, we chose a chimeric miRNA antagonist oligomer
(anti-miR) that was modified at the 2′ position of the sugar with
either a fluoro or a methoxyethyl group and a full phosphorothioate
backbone. This design has been shown to produce potent inhibition
of miRNAs in vivo (ref. 42 and E.G.M., unpublished observations).
Primary tumors from transgenic TH-MYCN mice were orthotopically
transplanted onto the kidney capsule of recipient BALB/c nu/nu mice.
In this model, extensive neuroblastoma tumors form and envelop
the kidney with a latency of approximately 3–5 weeks. Starting 2d
after transplant, mice received systemic treatment via intraperitoneal
injection of chimeric anti-miRs designed to antagonize miR-380
miR-380_5p relative expression
Analysis time (d)
500 2,500 2,000 1,500 1,000
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3
miR-380_5p relative expression
Figure 5 miR-380-5p is expressed in mouse and human neuroblastoma
and is associated with poor outcome in subjects with MYCN amplification.
(a) qRT-PCR for miR-380-5p expression in tumors and neuroendocrine
ganglion (SCG) tissue from wild type and transgenic mice. (b) miR-380-5p
expression detected by qRT-PCR in primary human neuroblastoma
samples taken before chemotherapy. miR-380-5p expression was
normalized to U6 small nuclear 2 RNA, normal human brain expression
(indicated by red dashed line); ‘low’ and ‘high’ designate the lowest
quartile of miR-380-5p expression and the remainder, respectively.
(c) Kaplan-Meier survival curves of event-free survival (EFS) in subgroups
of subjects with neuroblastoma according to relative expression level
of miR-380-5p, all with MYCN amplification (n = 22). Subjects were
dichotomized around the lower quartile of miR-380-5p expression. High:
n = 6, mean miR-380-5p expression = 3.19, s.e.m. = 0.83. Low: n = 16,
mean miR-380-5p expression = 0.49, s.e.m. = 0.13. P = 0.004. In a,
error bars depict s.d., *P < 0.02, **P < 0.02.
advance online publication nature medicine
(anti-miR380) or a control sequence twice weekly for 3 weeks
(25 mg per kg body weight per injection). Treatment with anti-
miR380 led to a markedly decreased size and weight of neuroblastoma
tumors (Fig. 6d,e; P = 0.01). Anti-miR380–treated tumors also had
diminished miR-380-5p and increased p21waf1 expression as com-
pared to the control (Supplementary Fig. 5a,b). No toxicity was noted
for mice treated with either anti-mir380 or control anti-miRs for
3 weeks (data not shown). We conclude that systemic delivery
of a miR-380 antagonist diminishes the growth of orthotopically
transplanted primary neuroblastoma tumors.
We have found that miR-380-5p is abundantly expressed in ES cells
and provides a constitutive cell survival function by repressing expres-
sion of p53. We find that miR-380-5p antagonists act preferentially
in ES cells that retain wild-type p53, indicating that p53 is a relevant
target of miR-380-5p for this function. ES cells have an especially rapid
rate of proliferation, lacking normal G1 and G2 phases, indicating
that growth control pathways are attenuated. ES cells, however, retain
an intact p53-MDM2-ARF tumor suppressor response that can be
rapidly activated in times of cellular stress. Expression of miRNAs,
such as miR-380-5p, may allow temporary and tunable repression of
p53 in stem cells, thus permitting rapid cellular proliferation and self
renewal, without the risks associated with irreversible loss of p53 func-
tion that is frequently found in cancer cells. Consistent with a dynamic
role for miR-380-5p in regulating responses to cellular stress, we find
rapid downregulation of this miRNA after ultraviolet treatment of ES
cells, which correlates with upregulation of p53 expression.
Appropriate epigenetic imprinting of the locus encoding miR-380 has
been recently shown to be crucial for the reprogramming of mouse fibrob-
lasts into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that are competent to give
rise to a whole mouse43. The expression of transcripts from this region
(as detected in ES cells) distinguishes iPS cells that will successfully con-
tribute to chimeric mice from genetically identical iPS cells43. Repression
of p53 expression promotes efficient iPS reprogramming44, but whether
expression of miR-380-5p or other miRNAs encoded from this locus are
essential in the generation of iPS cells remains to be elucidated.
We have used neuroblastoma as a model disease in which to test the
role of miRNA regulation of p53 in cancer. We show that nearly all neu-
roblastoma tumors express miR-380-5p and that high expression corre-
lates with poor prognosis in individuals with MYCN-amplified disease.
In human neuroblastoma cell lines, inhibition of miR-380-5p increases
p53 expression and induces apoptotic cell death (Supplementary Fig. 6).
Although p53 is the target we have studied most extensively, miR-380-5p
is likely to target multiple mRNAs. We do not identify other miR-380-
5p targets in this study, but we cannot exclude the possibility that miR-
380-5p has other mRNA targets, some of which may also be involved in
control of proliferation or survival.
A rapidly growing body of evidence has identified miRNAs as poten-
tial targets for cancer therapy. For example, overexpression of miR-26
by adeno-associated virus in a MYC-driven liver cancer model can
attenuate tumor formation45. Likewise, a transgenic model that con-
ditionally expresses miR-21 was used to show that tumor formation
and maintenance was miRNA dependent, as tumor regression occurred
after miR-21 expression was switched off46. The development of small
miRNA antagonists has opened the possibility for the use of drug-
like miRNA antagonists for cancer therapy. Inhibition of miR-10b by
delivery of miRNA antagonists does not block primary tumor growth
but can attenuate breast cancer metastasis in animal models47. Here
we sought to determine whether miR-380 is required by tumors in vivo
and found that treatment with anti–miR-380 results in diminished
tumor growth. To our knowledge, this is the first report of decreased
primary tumor growth in response to a systemically delivered in vivo
treatment inhibiting a miRNA. We propose that miR-380 is an oncogene
and a potential therapeutic target in p53 wild-type neuroblastoma.
Specifically, whether inhibitors of miR-380-5p will sensitize tumors to
genotoxic therapy is worth investigating in the clinic.
Methods and any associated references are available in the online
version of the paper at http://www.nature.com/naturemedicine/.
4 24 48724 2448 72
Absorbance (490 nm)
Figure 6 Treatment with miR-380-5p antagonist induces p53-dependent
cell death in neuroblastoma cells and decreases tumor growth in vivo.
(a) Western blots showing p53 and p21waf1 induction and PARP
cleavage after knockdown of miR-380-5p by LNA-380 compared to
control LNA in NBL-WS cells (left) but not TP53-mutant BE(2)C cells
(right). Arrow indicates cleaved PARP. (b) Images of NBL-WS cells
24 h after mock transfection (mock) or treatment with the indicated
LNAs; an LNA directed against let7e (LNA-let7e) was included as an
additional control. Scale bars, 200 µm. (c) MTS (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-
assay showing that knockdown of miR-380-5p by LNA-380 induces
rapid loss of cell viability in NBL-WS cells (left) but not BE(2)C cells
(right). Dox, doxorubicin treatment. (d) Tumor size after systemic
treatment with miR-380 antagonist (anti-miR380) for 3 weeks; mass
depicted is the weight of the kidney (indicated by dashed red line)
plus associated tumor (n = 5 mice for each treatment). (e) Repre-
sentative images of kidneys and associated neuroblastoma tumor
mass from two different mice for each treatment group. Scale bars,
1 cm. In a–c, results are representative of at least three independent
experiments, error bars depict s.e.m. *P < 0.01.
nature medicine advance online publication
Note: Supplementary information is available on the Nature Medicine website.
We gratefully thank J.M. Bishop, N.K. Hayward and R.L. Sutherland for their
support of this project, the Children’s Oncology Group and M. Grimmer
(University of California–San Francisco) for providing tumor samples, D. Lynch
and J. Brugge (Harvard Medical School) for MCF10A cells expressing the ecotropic
receptor, R. Jaenisch (Whitehead Institute) for Trp53−/− ES cells and S. Lowe (Cold
Spring Harbor) for the p53 shRNA retrovirus. TH-MYCN transgenic mice were
from W. Weiss (University of California–San Francisco). This work was supported
by grants from the US National Institutes of Health: P50-CA58207, K08-CA104032
and 1R01CA136717 (to A.G.), 5R01DC005991 (to N.L.), R01CA102321,
R01NS055750 and P01CA081403 (to W.W.) and K08NS48118 (to R.B.); the Susan
G. Komen Foundation; the University of California–San Francisco Program for
Breakthrough Biomedical Research (to A.G.); the G.W. Hooper Foundation; the
Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (to T.P., M.H., M.D.N.
and A. Swarbrick) and the Cancer Institute New South Wales (M.H. and M.D.N.).
A. Swarbrick is a recipient of a Cancer Institute New South Wales early career
development fellowship and R.L.J. a US National Science Foundation fellowship.
A.G. is a V-Foundation Scholar, A. Shaw is a Cancer Institute New South Wales
Research Scholar and Y.P. is supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award from
the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.
S.L.W., A. Swarbrick and A.G. conceived and designed the experiments, discussed
the results and wrote the manuscript. A. Swarbrick, S.L.W., A. Shaw, Y.P., A.N.,
A.G., R.L.J., C.S.S., C.S.H., P.L., A,B., N.H., Y.C. and L.L. performed experiments.
L.J.A. and M.D.N. performed statistical analysis of the human neuroblastoma data
set. A.C. provided human samples and clinical data, and E.G.M. provided anti-
miRs for in vivo studies. M.H., T.P., W.W., N.L. and C.S.S. supervised experiments
or experimental design.
CoMPETING FINANCIAL INTERESTS
The authors declare competing financial interests: details accompany the full-text
HTML version of the paper at http://www.nature.com/naturemedicine/.
Published online at http://www.nature.com/naturemedicine/.
Reprints and permissions information is available online at http://npg.nature.com/
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nature medicine Download full-text
Bioinformatics. We determined local RNA structure as previously described23
with mFold48. The Homo sapiens 3′ UTR average thermodynamic stability (−ΔG)
value of 16.2 ± 1.36 was calculated from the average of 30 3′ UTRs randomly
selected from the Genbank database.
Orthotopic mammary transplant and tumorigenesis assays. We generated
mice bearing mammary tumors by transplantation, essentially as previously
described32 with the following modifications. Mouse mammary epithelial cells
were collected from female FVB/N mice (Jackson Laboratory) and virally trans-
duced. We transplanted 500,000 cells into the cleared inguinal fat pads of naive
3- to 4-week-old female FVB/N mice. Mice were observed for tumor forma-
tion, tumor diameter was measured with calipers weekly and mice were killed
at 42 d after transplant, or sooner if they had reached the ethical endpoint of
the experiment. Animal experimentation was approved by the Committee for
Animal Research at the University of California–San Francisco. Tumor tissue
was either embedded in optimal cutting temperature medium or fixed in 4%
paraformaldehyde, embedded in paraffin and processed for histology.
Transgenic mouse experiments. TH-MYCN transgenic mice (W. Weiss) develop
neuroblastomas with a median of ~100 d36. We microdissected control SCG
tissue from freshly killed wild-type 8- to 12-week-old 129S6 or control TH-MYCN
mice; all non-nerve tissue was removed, and the tissue was snap frozen in liquid
nitrogen. We prepared RNA from SCG or primary neuroblastoma tumors and
performed qRT-PCR to determine miRNA expression.
Orthotopic neuroblastoma model and in vivo therapeutics. We transplanted
primary neuroblastoma tumors from TH-MYCN transgenic mice (2 mm3 per
kidney capsule) into BALB/c nu/nu mice. Two days after transplant, mice were
treated with chemically modified antisense oligonucleotides, designed to be com-
plementary to miR-380-5p or a control anti-miR (Regulus Therapeutics). We
treated mice twice weekly (25 mg per kg body weight per dose intraperitoneally)
for 3 weeks and killed them a total of 4 weeks after transplant. The weight of the
kidney plus the encompassing tumor or the contralateral kidney alone (not injected
with tumor cells) was recorded. The median mass of the kidney alone was 0.17 g.
Clinical cohorts. Accrual and analysis of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG)
cohort was approved by the COG Neuroblastoma Subcommittee and the indi-
vidual institutional review boards of all contributing institutions. The neuro-
blastoma clinical data set has been described elsewhere49. Accrual and analysis
of the Children’s Hospital Westmead cohort was approved by the Children’s
Hospital at Westmead Human Research Ethics Committee. Informed con-
sent was obtained from parents or guardians of all subjects. All samples were
de-identified, and researchers performing the miR-380-5p expression analysis
were blinded to all clinical characteristics and the outcome of the subjects. We
calculated event-free survival time from the time of enrollment on protocol
9047 of the COG cohort to the time of the first occurrence of an event (relapse,
progressive disease, secondary malignancy or death), or to the date of last
contact if no event occurred.
RNA expression analysis. We performed qRT-PCR assays (Taqman, Applied
Biosystems) per the manufacturer’s instructions with 25 ng (miRNA analysis)
or 1 µg (TP53, GAPDH, Gapdh or Cdkn1a) total RNA prepared with RNABee
(Iso-Tex Diagnostic), mirVana isolation kit (Ambion), Trizol (Invitrogen) or
RNA was prepared previously for the COG protocol 9047 (ref. 49). We ana-
lyzed miR-380-5p expression in primary versus secondary disease by extract-
ing RNA (Trizol) from snap-frozen tissue provided by the Children’s Hospital
Westmead Tumour Biobank. miR-380-5p expression was determined and
expression was normalized to miR-16, small nuclear RNA RNU6-2 and RNU19
or small nucleolar RNA sno202 levels, which are readily detectable endogenous
controls and do not change much in the samples tested. We either isolated or
purchased (Ambion, Stratagene) total RNA samples containing the small RNA
fraction, followed by northern blot analysis for miR-380-5p or miR-380-3p as
Luciferase assays. For p53-3′ UTR reporters, the 104-bp conserved element
from the human TP53 3′ UTR (WT p53) or a mutant lacking the mir-380-5p
seed sequences (MUT p53) was cloned into a destabilized firefly luciferase vector
(Promega) to generate reporter constructs. We transfected 293T cells with the
indicated (Fig. 3d) miRNA expression vector, the reporter constructs and Renilla
luciferase internal control vector and performed Dual-Glo reporter assays as
indicated by the manufacturer (Promega).
For miR-380-5p perfect reporter, three consecutive binding sites with perfect
complementarity to miR-380-5p were cloned into the pMIR-Report firefly luci-
ferase vector (Ambion). We transfected NIH3T3 cells with 0.5 nM of the syn-
thetic miRNA mimic (Ambion), the reporter constructs and Renilla luciferase
internal control vector using Lipofectamine 2000 (Invitrogen). We transfected
50 nM LNA oligomers 24 h later and performed dual-Glo reporter assays after
48 h, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Statistical analyses. We computed cumulative event-free survival by the Kaplan-
Meier method and compared between subgroups with the log-rank test. We
tested the influence of selected factors on survival time with the Cox propor-
tional hazards model. Specific factors considered as being possibly associated
with outcome included MYCN amplification, age at diagnosis, neuroblastoma
stage or miR-380-5p expression. We carried out statistical analyses with Stata,
version 10.0 (StataCorp).
Additional methods. Details of plasmids, cell culture conditions,
immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry can be found in the
48. Zuker, M. Mfold web server for nucleic acid folding and hybridization prediction.
Nucleic Acids Res. 31, 3406–3415 (2003).
49. Haber, M. et al. Association of high-level MRP1 expression with poor clinical
outcome in a large prospective study of primary neuroblastoma. J. Clin. Oncol. 24,
50. Grundhoff, A., Sullivan, C.S. & Ganem, D. A combined computational and
microarray-based approach identifies novel microRNAs encoded by human gamma-
herpesviruses. RNA 12, 733–750 (2006).