Research suggests that hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer, and progestins such as norethisterone (NET) play a key role in this phenomenon. We have demonstrated that microRNA-181a (miR-181a) suppresses NET-promoted breast cancer cell survival. Nonetheless, the effects of NET and miR-181a on the tumorigenesis of human breast epithelial cells have not yet been elaborated.
Assays of cell viability, proliferation, migration, apoptosis, and colony formation were performed to investigate the pro-tumorigenesis effect of NET and the effects of miR-181a on human breast epithelial MCF10A cells. The expressions of cell-proliferation-related genes and apoptotic factors were analyzed by quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot in MCF10A cells treated with NET and miR-181a.
NET significantly increased MCF10A cell viability, proliferation, migration, and colony formation, but reduced cellular apoptosis. In addition, NET increased the expression of progesterone receptor membrane component 1 (PGRMC1), EGFR, B-cell lymphoma 2, cyclin D1, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen, but decreased the expression of pro-apoptosis factors, such as Bax, caspase-7, and caspase-9. Overexpression of miR-181a strongly inhibited the effects of NET on MCF10A cells and abrogated NET-stimulated PGRMC1, EGFR, and mTOR expression.
Activation of the PGRMC1/EGFR-PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway is the primary mechanism underlying the pro-tumorigenesis effects of NET on human breast epithelial MCF10A cells. Additionally, miR-181a can suppress the effects of NET on these cells. These data suggest a therapeutic potential for miR-181a in reducing or preventing the risk of breast cancer in hormone replacement therapy using NET.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.