Although the inflammation-associated cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) has been implicated in cholangiocarcinoma growth, the relationship between IL-6 and oncogenic changes is unknown. IL-6 can increase expression of DNA methyltransferase-1 (DNMT-1) and epigenetically regulate the expression of several genes, including microRNAs (miRNAs). DNMT-1 up-regulation occurs in hepatobiliary cancers and is associated with a poor prognosis. To understand the potential regulation of DNMT-1 by IL-6-dependent miRNAs, we examined the expression of a group of miRNAs which have sequence complementarity to the 3'-untranslated region of DNMT-1, namely miR-148a, miR-152, and miR-301. The expression of these miRNAs was decreased in cholangiocarcinoma cells. Moreover, the expression of all three miRNAs was decreased in IL-6-overexpressing malignant cholangiocytes in vitro and in tumor cell xenografts. There was a concomitant decrease in expression of the methylationsensitive tumor suppressor genes Rassf1a and p16INK4a. Using luciferase reporter constructs, DNMT-1 was verified as a target for miR-148a and miR-152. Precursors to miR-148a and miR-152 decreased DNMT-1 protein expression, increased Rassf1a and p16INK4a expression, and reduced cell proliferation. Conclusion: These data indicate that IL-6 can regulate the activity of DNMT-1 and expression of methylation- dependent tumor suppressor genes by modulation of miR-148a and miR-152, and provide a link between this inflammation-associated cytokine and oncogenesis in cholangiocarcinoma.
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