The origin of exosomal miR-1246 in human cancer cells

miR-1246 is considered an oncomiR in various cancer types. However, the origin and biogenesis of miR-1246 remain controversial which often leads to misinterpretation of its detection and biological function, and inevitably masking its mechanisms of action. Using next generation small RNA sequencing, CRISPR-Cas9 knockout, siRNA knockdown and the poly-A tailing SYBR qRT-PCR, we examined the biogenesis of exosomal miR-1246 in human cancer cell model systems. We found that miR-1246 is highly enriched in exosomes derived from human cancer cells and that it originates from RNU2-1, a small nuclear RNA and essential component of the U2 complex of the spliceosome. Knockdown of Drosha and Dicer did not reduce exosomal miR-1246 levels, indicating that exosomal miR-1246 is generated in a Drosha- and Dicer-independent manner. Direct digestion of cellular lysate by RNase A and knockdown of the RNU2-1 binding protein SmB/B’ demonstrated that exosomal miR-1246 is a RNU2-1 degradation product. Furthermore, the GCAG motif present in the RUN2-1 transcript was shown to mediate miR-1246 enrichment in cancer exosomes. We conclude that exosome miR-1246 is derived from RNU2-1 degradation through a non-canonical microRNA biogenesis process. These findings reveal the origin of an oncomiR in human cancer cells, providing guidance in understanding miR-1246 detection and biological function.

Abbreviations: CRISPR, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats; miRNA, microRNA; PDAC, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; RNU2-1, U2 small nuclear RNA; RT-PCR, Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction; sgRNA, single-guide RNA.