MicroRNA-206 enhances antitumor immunity by disrupting the communication between malignant hepatocytes and regulatory T cells in c-Myc mice

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Background and Aims: Intertumoral accumulation of regulatory T cells (Tregs) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of HCC. Because of poor understanding of the immunosuppression mechanism(s) in HCC, immunotherapy is largely unsuccessful for the treatment of HCC. Approach and Results: Hydrodynamic injection (HDI) of c-Myc into mice resulted in enlarged spleens and lethal HCC associated with an increase in hepatic Tregs and depletion of CTLs (cytotoxic T lymphocytes). Malignant hepatocytes in c-Myc mice overproduced TGFβ1, which enhanced the suppressor function of Tregs and impaired the proliferation and cytotoxicity of CTLs. In addition to activating TGFβ signaling, c-Myc synergized with Yin Yang 1 to impair microRNA-206 (miR-206) biogenesis. HDI of miR-206 fully prevented HCC and the associated enlargement of the spleen, whereas 100% of control mice died from HCC within 5-9 weeks postinjection. Mechanistically, by directly targeting errant kirsten ras oncogene (KRAS) signaling, miR-206 impeded the mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) axis that drives expression of Tgfb1. By blocking the KRAS/MEK/ERK axis, miR-206 prevented TGFβ1 overproduction, thereby impairing the suppressor function and expansion of Tregs, but enhancing the expansion and cytotoxic program of CTLs. Disrupting the interaction between miR-206 and Kras offset the roles of miR-206 in inhibiting immunosuppression and HCC. Depletion of CD8+ T cells impaired the ability of miR-206 to inhibit HCC. Conclusions: c-Myc-educated hepatocytes promoted immunosuppression by overproducing TGFβ1, which promoted HCC development. miR-206, by attenuating TGFβ1 overproduction, disrupted the communication of malignant hepatocytes with CTLs and Tregs, which prevented HCC. miR-206 represents a potential immunotherapeutic agent against HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-47
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported, in part, by the Research Scholar Grant (ISG‐16‐210‐01‐RMC) awarded to G.S. from the American Cancer Society

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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