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Claire E Fletcher, D Alwyn Dart and Charlotte L Bevan

Hormones are key drivers of cancer development. To date, interest has largely been focussed on the classical model of hormonal gene regulation, but there is increasing evidence for a role of hormone signalling pathways in post-translational regulation of gene expression. In particular, a complex and dynamic network of bi-directional interactions with microRNAs (miRs) at all stages of biogenesis and during target gene repression is emerging. miRs, which act mainly by negatively regulating gene expression through association with 3′-UTRs of mRNA species, are increasingly understood to be important in development, normal physiology and pathogenesis. Given recent demonstrations of altered miR profiles in a diverse range of cancers, their ability to function as oncogenes or tumour suppressors, and hormonal regulation of miRs, understanding mechanisms by which miRs are generated and regulated is vitally important. miRs are transcribed by RNA polymerase II and then processed in the nucleus by the Drosha-containing Microprocessor complex and in the cytoplasm by Dicer, before mature miRs are incorporated into the RNA-induced silencing complex. It is increasingly evident that multiple cellular signalling pathways converge upon the miR biogenesis cascade, adding further layers of regulatory complexity to modulate miR maturation. This review summarises recent advances in identification of novel components and regulators of the Microprocessor and Dicer complexes, with particular emphasis on the role of hormone signalling pathways in regulating their activity. Understanding hormone regulation of miR production and how this is perturbed in cancer are critical for the development of miR-based therapeutics and biomarkers.

Open access

D Alwyn Dart, Bradley Spencer-Dene, Simon C Gamble, Jonathan Waxman and Charlotte L Bevan

Current hormonal therapies for prostate cancer are effective initially, but inevitably tumours progress to an advanced, metastatic stage, often referred to as ‘androgen independent’. However, the androgen receptor (AR) signalling pathway is still key for their growth. It is speculated that tumours escape hormonal control via reduction in corepressor proteins. Manipulating such proteins is thus a potential therapeutic strategy to halt or even reverse tumour progression. We aimed to elucidate the effects of altering levels of the AR corepressor and androgen-target protein prohibitin (PHB) on prostate tumour growth. Prostate cancer cells incorporating an integrated androgen-responsive reporter gene and stably expressing vectors to inducibly overexpress or knockdown PHB were generated and used to assess effects on androgen signalling (by real time imaging) and tumour growth both in culture and in vivo. PHB overexpression inhibited AR activity and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) expression as well as androgen-dependent growth of cells, inducing rapid accumulation in G0/G1. Conversely, reduction in PHB increased AR activity, PSA expression, androgen-mediated growth and S-phase entry. In vivo, doxycycline-induced PHB regulation resulted in marked changes in AR activity, and showed significant effects upon tumour growth. Overexpression led to tumour growth arrest and protection from hormonal starvation, whereas RNAi knockdown resulted in accelerated tumour growth, even in castrated mice. This study provides proof of principle that i) reduction in PHB promotes both androgen-dependent and ‘androgen-independent’ tumour growth, and ii) altering AR activity via increasing levels or activity of corepressors is a valid therapeutic strategy for advanced prostate cancer.