microRNA-21 (miR-21) is the most commonly upregulated miRNA in solid tumors. This cancer-associated microRNA (oncomiR) regulates various downstream effectors associated with tumor pathogenesis during all stages of carcinogenesis. In this study, we analyzed the function of miR-21 in noncancer cells of the tumor microenvironment to further evaluate its contribution to tumor progression. We report that the expression of miR-21 in cells of the tumor immune infiltrate, and in particular in macrophages, was responsible for promoting tumor growth. Absence of miR-21 expression in tumor- associated macrophages (TAMs), caused a global rewiring of their transcriptional regulatory network that was skewed toward a proinflammatory angiostatic phenotype. This promoted an antitumoral immune response characterized by a macrophage-mediated improvement of cytotoxic T-cell responses through the induction of cytokines and chemokines, including IL-12 and C-X-C motif chemokine 10. These effects translated to a reduction in tumor neovascularization and an induction of tumor cell death that led to decreased tumor growth. Additionally, using the carrier peptide pH (low) insertion peptide, we were able to target miR-21 in TAMs, which decreased tumor growth even under conditions where miR-21 expression was deficient in cancer cells. Consequently, miR-21 inhibition in TAMs induced an angiostatic and immunostimulatory activation with potential therapeutic implications.


Mahnaz Sahraei, Balkrishna Chaube, Yuting Liu, Jonathan Sun, Alanna Kaplan, Nathan L. Price, Wen Ding, Stanley Oyaghire, Rolando García-Milian, Sameet Mehta, Yana K. Reshetnyak, Raman Bahal, Paolo Fiorina, Peter M. Glazer, David L. Rimm, Carlos Fernández-Hernando, Yajaira Suárez


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