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Studies have shown that the calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) mediates the antitumorigenic effects of calcium against colorectal cancer (CRC). Expression of the CaSR in colorectal tumors is often reduced. We have reported previously that silencing of CaSR in CRC is caused in part by methylation of CaSR promoter 2 and loss of histone acetylation. We investigated the impact of aberrant microRNA expression on loss of CaSR expression. A microarray study in two Caco-2 subclones (Caco2/AQ and Caco2/15) that have similar genetic background, but different CaSR expression levels (Caco2/AQ expressing more CaSR than Caco2/15), identified 22 differentially expressed microRNAs that potentially target the CaSR. We validated these results by performing gain- and loss-of-function studies with the top candidates: miR-9, miR-27a, miR-135b, and miR-146b. Modulation of miR-135b or miR-146b expression by mimicking or inhibiting their expression regulated CaSR protein levels in two different colon cancer cell lines: Caco2/AQ (moderate endogenous CaSR expression) and HT29 (low endogenous CaSR levels). Inhibition of miR-135b and miR-146b expression led to high CaSR levels and significantly reduced proliferation. In samples of colorectal tumors we observed overexpression of miR-135b and miR-146b, and this correlated inversely with CaSR expression (miR-135b: r = -0.684, p < 0.001 and miR-146b: r = -0.448, p < 0.001), supporting our in vitro findings. We demonstrate that miR-135b and miR-146b target the CaSR and reduce its expression in colorectal tumors, reducing the antiproliferative and prodifferentiating actions of calcium. This provides a new approach for finding means to prevent CaSR loss, developing better treatment strategies for CRC.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Cancer

Publication Date





137 - 145


calcium-sensing receptor, colorectal cancer, miR-135b, miR-146b, microRNAs, Caco-2 Cells, Cell Line, Tumor, Cell Proliferation, Colorectal Neoplasms, Gene Expression Profiling, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Gene Silencing, Humans, MicroRNAs, Receptors, Calcium-Sensing