• Open Access

Systematic exploration of cancer-associated microRNA through functional screening assays


To whom correspondence should be addressed.
E-mail: hnakagam@ncc.go.jp


MicroRNA (miRNA), non-coding RNA of approximately 22 nucleotides, post-transcriptionally represses expression of its target genes. miRNA regulates a variety of biological processes such as cell proliferation, cell death, development, stemness and genomic stability, not only in physiological conditions but also in various pathological conditions such as cancers. More than 1000 mature miRNA have been experimentally identified in humans and mice, yet the functions of a vast majority of miRNA remain to be elucidated. Identification of novel cancer-associated miRNA seems promising considering their possible application in the development of novel cancer therapies and biomarkers. Currently, there are two major approaches to identify miRNA that are associated with cancer: expression profiling study and functional screening assay. The former approach is widely used, and a large number of studies have shown aberrant miRNA expression profiles in cancer tissues compared with their non-cancer counterparts. Although aberrantly expressed miRNA are potentially good biomarkers, in most cases a majority of them do not play causal roles in cancers when functional assays are performed. In contrast, the latter approach allows screening of ‘driver’ miRNA with cancer-associated phenotypes, such as cell proliferation and cell invasion. Thus, this approach might be suitable in finding crucial targets of novel cancer therapy. The combination of both types of approaches will contribute to further elucidation of the cancer pathophysiology and to the development of a novel class of cancer therapies and biomarkers. (Cancer Sci 2011; 102: 1615–1621)