Down-Regulation of miR-92 in Breast Epithelial Cells and in Normal but Not Tumour Fibroblasts Contributes to Breast Carcinogenesis


MicroRNA (miR) expression is commonly dysregulated in many cancers, including breast. MiR–92 is one of six miRs encoded by the miR-17-92 cluster, one of the best-characterised oncogenic miR clusters. We examined expression of miR–92 in the breast epithelium and stroma during breast cancer progression. We also investigated the role of miR–92 in fibroblasts in vitro and showed that down-regulation in normal fibroblasts enhances the invasion of breast cancer epithelial cells.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We used laser microdissection (LMD) to isolate epithelial cells from matched normal, DCIS and invasive tissue from 9 breast cancer patients and analysed miR–92 expression by qRT-PCR. Expression of ERβ1, a direct miR–92 target, was concurrently analysed for each case by immunohistochemistry. LMD was also used to isolate matched normal (NFs) and cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) from 14 further cases. Effects of miR–92 inhibition in fibroblasts on epithelial cell invasion in vitro was examined using a Matrigel™ assay. miR–92 levels decreased in microdissected epithelial cells during breast cancer progression with highest levels in normal breast epithelium, decreasing in DCIS (p<0.01) and being lowest in invasive breast tissue (p<0.01). This was accompanied by a shift in cell localisation of ERβ1 from nuclear expression in normal breast epithelium to increased cytoplasmic expression during progression to DCIS (p = 0.0078) and invasive breast cancer (p = 0.031). ERβ1 immunoreactivity was also seen in stromal fibroblasts in tissues. Where miR–92 expression was low in microdissected NFs this increased in matched CAFs; a trend also seen in cultured primary fibroblasts. Down-regulation of miR–92 levels in NFs but not CAFs enhanced invasion of both MCF–7 and MDA-MB–231 breast cancer epithelial cells.


miR–92 is gradually lost in breast epithelial cells during cancer progression correlating with a shift in ERβ1 immunoreactivity from nuclei to the cytoplasm. Our data support a functional role in fibroblasts where modification of miR–92 expression can influence the invasive capacity of breast cancer epithelial cells. However in silico analysis suggests that ERβ1 may not be the most important miR–92 target in breast cancer.