microRNAs are biomarkers of oncogenic human papillomavirus infections

Cellular and viral microRNAs (miRNAs) are the transcriptional products of RNA polymerase II and are regulated by transcriptional factors for their differential expression. The altered expression of miRNAs in many cancer types has been explored as a marker for possible diagnosis and therapy. We report in this study that oncogenic human papillomaviruses (HPVs) induce aberrant expression of many cellular miRNAs and that HPV18 infection produces no detectable viral miRNA. Thirteen abundant host miRNAs were specifically regulated by HPV16 and HPV18 in organotypic raft cultures of foreskin and vaginal keratinocytes as determined by miRNA array in combination with small RNA sequencing. The increase of miR-16, miR-25, miR-92a, and miR-378 and the decrease of miR-22, miR-27a, miR-29a, and miR-100 could be attributed to viral oncoprotein E6, E7, or both, all of which are known to target many cellular transcription factors. The examination of 158 cervical specimens, including 38 normal, 52 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and 68 cervical cancer (CC) tissues, for the expression of these eight miRNAs showed a remarkable increase of miR-25, miR-92a, and miR-378 with lesion progression but no obvious change of miR-22, miR-29a, and miR-100 among the HPV-infected tissues. Further analyses indicate that an expression ratio ≥1.5 of miR-25/92a group over miR-22/29a group could serve as a cutoff value to distinguish normal cervix from CIN and from CIN to CC.

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