The identification of prognostic biomarkers and their underlying mechanisms of action remain of great interest in breast cancer biology. Using global miRNA profiling of 71 lymph node-negative invasive ductal breast cancers and 5 normal mammary epithelial tissues, we identified miR-449a to be highly overexpressed in the malignant breast tissue. Its expression was significantly associated with increased incidence of patient relapse, decreased overall survival, and decreased disease-free survival. In vitro, miR-449a promoted breast cancer cell proliferation, clonogenic survival, migration, and invasion. By utilizing a tri-modal in silico approach for target identification, Cysteine-Rich Protein 2 (CRIP2; a transcription factor) was identified as a direct target of miR-449a, corroborated using qRT-PCR, Western blot, and luciferase reporter assays. MDA-MB-231 cells stably transfected with CRIP2 demonstrated a significant reduction in cell viability, migration, and invasion, as well as decreased tumor growth and angiogenesis in mouse xenograft models. Our data revealed that overexpression of miR-449a suppresses CRIP2, which then affects the tumor vasculature, likely via NF-κB/p65 complex-mediated transcription of VEGF. These finding define an oncogenic function of miR-449a in human breast cancer, and highlight the importance of this pathway in driving aggressive behaviour.
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