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Kong, Lingming; Liu, Peng; Zheng, Mingjun; Wang, Zhongpeng; Gao, Yang; Liang, Keke; Wang, Huaitao; Tan, Xiaodong (2020): The miR-1224-5p/ELF3 Axis Regulates Malignant Behaviors of Pancreatic Cancer via PI3K/AKT/Notch Signaling Pathways. In: Oncotargets and Therapy, Vol. 13: pp. 3449-3466
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Purpose: Aberrant expression of microRNAs contributes to the progression of pancreatic cancer by targeting downstream genes. A novel regulatory axis, miR-1224-5p/ELF3, was identified by bioinformatic analysis and experimental verification. Studies of the underlying molecular mechanisms behind this axis lead to a better understanding of the development of pancreatic cancer. Materials and Methods: The differential expression of miR-1224-5p and ELF3 was verified based on Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) datasets and clinical samples. The relationship between miR-1224-5p and ELF3 was demonstrated by luciferase assay and Western blot. The related signaling pathways of the miR-1224-5p/ELF3 axis in pancreatic cancer were investigated by gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) and verified by Western blot. An analysis between ELF3 expression and immune infiltration was performed. Cellular and animal experiments were utilized to explore the effects of miR-1224-5p and ELF3 in pancreatic cancer. Results: Suppressed expression of miR-1224-5p in pancreatic tumor tissues and cancer cells was identified first. Furthermore, miR-1224-5p is correlated with clinicopathological features, and decreased expression of miR-1224-5p indicates poor prognosis. miR-1224-5p serves as a tumor suppressor and inhibits malignant behaviors of pancreatic cancer based on in vivo and in vitro assays. The putative target gene ELF3 was predicted by bioinformatic analysis and confirmed by dual-luciferase reporter assay. Overexpression of ELF3 can improve the malignant behaviors of pancreatic cancer and demonstrates poor prognosis and advanced clinical stage. The inhibitory role of miR-1224-5p in pancreatic cancer is manifested by its direct targeting of ELF3. A negative correlation between ELF3 expression and immune cell infiltration was identified, suggesting an immunosuppressive state resulting from ELF3 overexpression. The PI3K/AKT/Notch signaling pathways and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) are important underlying mechanisms. Conclusion: The miR-1224-5p/ELF3 axis may serve as a new diagnostic, therapeutic, and prognostic biomarker in pancreatic cancer. The related PI3K/AKT/Notch/EMT signaling pathways greatly promote the elucidation of the progression of pancreatic cancer.