MicroRNA-7, a homeobox D10 target, inhibits p21-activated kinase 1 and regulates its functions.
MicroRNAs are noncoding RNAs that inhibit the expression of their targets in a sequence-specific manner and play crucial roles during oncogenesis. Here we show that microRNA-7 (miR-7) inhibits p21-activated kinase 1 (Pak1) expression, a widely up-regulated signaling kinase in multiple human cancers, by targeting the 3'-untranslated region (UTR) of Pak1 mRNA. We noticed an inverse correlation between the levels of endogenous miR-7 and Pak1 expression in human cancer cells. We discovered that endogenous miR-7 expression is positively regulated by a homeodomain transcription factor, HoxD10, the loss of which leads to an increased invasiveness. HoxD10 directly interacts with the miR-7 chromatin. Accordingly, the levels of Pak1 protein are progressively up-regulated whereas those of miR-7 and its upstream activator HoxD10 are progressively down-regulated in a cellular model of breast cancer progression from low to highly invasive phenotypes. Furthermore, HoxD10 expression in highly invasive breast cancer cells resulted in an increased miR-7 expression but reduced Pak1 3'-UTR-luciferase activity and reduced Pak1 protein. Finally, we show that miR-7 introduction inhibits the motility, invasiveness, anchorage-independent growth, and tumorigenic potential of highly invasive breast cancer cells. Collectively, these findings establish for the first time that Pak1 is a target of miR-7 and that HoxD10 plays a regulatory role in modifying the expression of miR-7 and, consequently, the functions of the miR-7-Pak1 pathway in human cancer cells.