J Cancer 2017; 8(10):1849-1864. doi:10.7150/jca.19858

Research Paper

Metformin Inhibits Tumorigenesis and Tumor Growth of Breast Cancer Cells by Upregulating miR-200c but Downregulating AKT2 Expression

Jiali Zhang1#, Gefei Li1#, Yuan Chen1, Lei Fang1, Chen Guan1, Fumao Bai1, Mengni Ma1, Jianxin Lyu1✉, Qing H. Meng1,2✉

1. Key Laboratory of Laboratory Medicine, Ministry of Education of China, Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Medical Genetics, School of Laboratory Medicine and Life Sciences, Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, Zhejiang 325035, China
2. Department of Laboratory Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA
#These authors contributed equally to this work.


Background: Metformin has been reported to inhibit the growth of various types of cancers, including breast cancer. Yet the mechanisms underlying the anticancer effects of metformin are not fully understood. Growing evidence suggests that metformin's anticancer effects are mediated at least in part by modulating microRNAs, including miR-200c, which has a tumor suppressive role in breast cancer. We hypothesized that miR-200c has a role in the antitumorigenic effects of metformin on breast cancer cells.

Methods: To delineate the role of miR-200c in the effects of metformin on breast cancer, plasmids containing pre-miR-200c or miR-200c inhibitor were transfected into breast cancer cell lines. The MDA-MB-231, BT549, MCF-7, and T-47-D cells' proliferation, apoptosis, migration, and invasion were assessed. The antitumor role of metformin in vivo was investigated in a MDA-MB-231 xenograft tumor model in SCID mice.

Results: Metformin significantly inhibited the growth, migration, and invasion of breast cancer cells, and induced their apoptosis; these effects were dependent on both dose and time. Metformin also suppressed MDA-MB-231 tumor growth in SCID mice in vivo. Metformin treatment was associated with increased miR-200c expression and decreased c-Myc and AKT2 protein expression in both breast cancer cells and tumor tissues. Overexpression of miR-200c exhibited effects on breast cancer cells similar to those of metformin treatment. In contrast, inhibiting the expression of miR-200c increased the growth, migration, and invasion of MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells.

Conclusion: Metformin inhibits the growth and invasiveness of breast cancer cells by upregulation of miR-200c expression by targeting AKT2. These findings provide novel insight into the molecular functions of metformin that suggest its potential as an anticancer agent.

Keywords: Metformin, breast cancer cell, miR-200c, AKT2

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How to cite this article:
Zhang J, Li G, Chen Y, Fang L, Guan C, Bai F, Ma M, Lyu J, Meng QH. Metformin Inhibits Tumorigenesis and Tumor Growth of Breast Cancer Cells by Upregulating miR-200c but Downregulating AKT2 Expression. J Cancer 2017; 8(10):1849-1864. doi:10.7150/jca.19858. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v08p1849.htm