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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Increased MiR-221 expression in hepatocellular carcinoma tissues and its role in enhancing cell growth and inhibiting apoptosis in vitro

Minhua Rong1*, Gang Chen2 and Yiwu Dang2

Author Affiliations

1 Research Department, Affiliated Cancer Hospital, Guangxi Medical University, 71 Hedi Road, Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 530021, P.R. China

2 Department of Pathology, First Affiliated Hospital, Guangxi Medical University, 6 Shuangyong Road, Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 530021, P.R. China

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-21

Published: 16 January 2013



MiR-221 is over-expressed in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but its clinical significance and function in HCC remains uncertain. The aim of the study was to investigate the relationship between miR-221 overexpression and clinicopathological parameters in HCC formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues, and the effect of miR-221 inhibitor and mimic on different HCC cell lines in vitro.


MiR-221 expression was detected using real time RT-qPCR in FFPE HCC and the adjacent noncancerous liver tissues. The relationship between miR-221 level and clinicopathological features was also analyzed. Furthermore, miR-221 inhibitor and mimic were transfected into HCC cell lines HepB3, HepG2 and SNU449. The effects of miR-221 on cell growth, cell cycle, caspase activity and apoptosis were also investigated by spectrophotometry, fluorimetry, fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry, respectively.


The relative expression of miR-221 in clinical TNM stages III and IV was significantly higher than that in the stages I and II. The miR-221 level was also upregulated in the metastatic group compared to the nonmetastatic group. Furthermore, miR-221 over-expression was related to the status of tumor capsular infiltration in HCC clinical samples. Functionally, cell growth was inhibited, cell cycle was arrested in G1/S-phase and apoptosis was increased by miR-221 inhibitor in vitro. Likewise, miR-221 mimic accelerated the cell growth.


Expression of miR-221 in FFPE tissues could provide predictive significance for prognosis of HCC patients. Moreover, miR-221 inhibitor could be useful to suppress proliferation and induce apoptosis in HCC cells. Thus miR-221 might be a critical targeted therapy strategy for HCC.

MiR-221; Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); Cell growth; Cell cycle; Apoptosis; Caspase