GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program



Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology

First Thesis Advisor

Arthur M. Mercurio PhD


Breast Neoplasms, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, MicroRNAs, Neoplasm Metastasis, Tumor Markers, Biological


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a class of small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression. Recent studies have shown that miRNAs are mis-expressed in various human cancers and that some miRNAs have the potential to act as tumor suppressors or oncogenes. MiR-10b is one miRNA that has been shown to be deregulated in breast cancer. However, current findings regarding miR-10b’s role in breast cancer are controversial. MiR-10b was originally reported to be downregulated in breast cancer compared to normal breast tissue. Subsequently, miR-10b was argued to be upregulated in metastatic breast cancer cell lines, acting as a potent pro-metastatic agent via regulation of HOXD10. This report was soon challenged by another group who reported that miR-10b expression in a large patient cohort correlated inversely and significantly with tumor size, grade, and vascular invasion, but did not correlate with development of distant metastases or survival. These latter data suggest that miR-10b may impede specific functions associated with breast cancer progression.

In this thesis, I present my analysis of miR-10b function in breast carcinoma cells, which revealed that it suppresses their migration and invasion. To define a mechanism that accounts for this suppressive function, I identified T-lymphoma invasion and metastasis 1 (TIAM1), a guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Rac1, as a miR-10b target and demonstrated that miR-10b inhibits TIAM1-dependent Rac1 activation, migration, and invasion. In addition, I identified the VEGF receptor fms-related tyrosine kinase 1 (FLT-1) as a second target of miR-10b and discovered a novel function for FLT-1 in promoting breast carcinoma cell migration and invasion. My results show, for the first time, that Rac activation can be regulated by a specific miRNA and provide a novel mechanism for the regulation of TIAM1 and FLT-1 in breast cancer. These data support the conclusion from clinical data that miR-10b expression correlates inversely with breast cancer progression, and suggest that miR-10b functions to impede breast carcinoma progression by regulating key target genes involved in cell motility.



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