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Original research
MicroRNA-223 attenuates hepatocarcinogenesis by blocking hypoxia-driven angiogenesis and immunosuppression
  1. Yaojie Fu1,
  2. Bryan Mackowiak1,
  3. Dechun Feng1,
  4. Hongkun Lu1,
  5. Yukun Guan1,
  6. Taylor Lehner1,
  7. Hongna Pan1,
  8. Xin Wei Wang2,3,
  9. Yong He1,
  10. Bin Gao1
  1. 1Laboratory of Liver Diseases, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
  3. 3Liver Cancer Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bin Gao, Laboratory of Liver Diseases, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA; bgao{at}mail.nih.gov; Dr Yong He, Laboratory of Liver Diseases, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA, Current email address; heyong{at}simm.ac.cn

Abstract

Objective The current treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) to block angiogenesis and immunosuppression provides some benefits only for a subset of patients with HCC, thus optimised therapeutic regimens are unmet needs, which require a thorough understanding of the underlying mechanisms by which tumour cells orchestrate an inflamed tumour microenvironment with significant myeloid cell infiltration. MicroRNA-223 (miR-223) is highly expressed in myeloid cells but its role in regulating tumour microenvironment remains unknown.

Design Wild-type and miR-223 knockout mice were subjected to two mouse models of inflammation-associated HCC induced by injection of diethylnitrosamine (DEN) or orthotopic HCC cell implantation in chronic carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-treated mice.

Results Genetic deletion of miR-223 markedly exacerbated tumourigenesis in inflammation-associated HCC. Compared with wild-type mice, miR-223 knockout mice had more infiltrated programmed cell death 1 (PD-1+) T cells and programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1+) macrophages after DEN+CCl4 administration. Bioinformatic analyses of RNA sequencing data revealed a strong correlation between miR-223 levels and tumour hypoxia, a condition that is well-documented to regulate PD-1/PD-L1. In vivo and in vitro mechanistic studies demonstrated that miR-223 did not directly target PD-1 and PD-L1 in immune cells rather than indirectly downregulated them by modulating tumour microenvironment via the suppression of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α-driven CD39/CD73-adenosine pathway in HCC. Moreover, gene delivery of miR-223 via adenovirus inhibited angiogenesis and hypoxia-mediated PD-1/PD-L1 activation in both HCC models, thereby hindering HCC progression.

Conclusion The miR-223 plays a critical role in modulating hypoxia-induced tumour immunosuppression and angiogenesis, which may serve as a novel therapeutic target for HCC.

  • HEPATOCELLULAR CARCINOMA
  • INFLAMMATORY CELLS
  • CANCER IMMUNOBIOLOGY

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors: YF and YH designed the project and performed in vitro and in vivo experiments. BM, DF, HL, YG, TL, HP, XW performed some experiments, contributed to data analysis, and provided scientific input. YF, YH, and BG wrote the manuscript with contributes from all authors. YH and BG jointly supervised the work. BG is the author responsible for the overall content as the guarantor.

  • Funding This work was supported by the intramural program of NIAAA, NIH (BG) and the intramural program of the Center for Cancer Research, NCI, NIH (XWW)

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.