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Open Access Research article

Expression of serum miR-20a-5p, let-7a, and miR-320a and their correlations with pepsinogen in atrophic gastritis and gastric cancer: a case–control study

Qian Xu1, Qi-Guan Dong12, Li-ping Sun1, Cai-yun He1 and Yuan Yuan1*

Author affiliations

1 Tumor Etiology and Screening Department of Cancer Institute and General Surgery, the First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University, the Key Laboratory of Tumor Etiology and Prevention in Liaoning Province, Shenyang, Liaoning Province 110001, China

2 The Department of Medical Oncology, the General Hospital of Fushun Mining Bureau, Fushun, Liaoning Province 113008, China

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Citation and License

BMC Clinical Pathology 2013, 13:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-13-11

Published: 22 March 2013



The identification of serial miRNAs targeting the same functional gastric protein could provide new and effective serological biomarkers for the diagnosis of gastric cancer (GC). The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential of miR-20a-5p, let-7a and miR-320a in the diagnosis of AG or GC and the correlation of the three miRNAs with their predicted target molecules PGA, PGC and PGA/PGC ratio.


The total of 291 patients included 103 controls (CON), 94 with atrophic gastritis (AG) and 94 with GC. The levels of serum miRNAs were detected by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and serum pepsinogen A (PGA) and C (PGC) were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays.


Serum miR-320a level decreased through the controls, AG and GC groups which were the cascades of GC development, while there were no significant differences in levels of miR-20a-5p and let-7a among the controls, AG and GC groups. When stratified by gender and age, serum miR-320a expression was lower in female GC patients than in controls (p = 0.035), especially in female GC patients older than 60 years (p = 0.008). For distinguishing female GC patients aged over 60, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for miR-320a was 0.699, and the best cut-off point was 4.76 with a sensitivity of 65.2% and specificity of 68.2%. Concerning the correlations between the selected miR-20a-5p, let-7a, miR-320a and PGs, we found that there were positive correlations between all the three and the ratio of PGA/PGC (r = 0.408, 0.255, 0.324; p = <0.001, 0.009, 0.001, respectively), but there was no relationship between the expression of serum miR-20a-5p and its predicted target PGA, or between let-7a and miR-320a and their predicted target PGC. Serum miR-320a was decreased and PGC was increased in the GC group compared with the control group.


Levels of serum miR-320a were lower in female GC patients older than 60 than in controls, which may provide a potential valuable marker for diagnosing older women with GC. The levels of serum miR-20a-5p, let-7a and miR-320a were positively correlated with PGA/PGC, which may indirectly reflect the functional status of the gastric mucosa.

Serum microRNA; Biomarker; Pepsinogen; Gastric disease