Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), one of the deadliest malignancies, is resistant to current chemotherapies. We previously showed that triptolide inhibits PDAC cell growth in vitro and blocks metastatic spread in vivo. Triptolide downregulates HSP70, a molecular chaperone upregulated in several tumor types. This study investigates the mechanism by which triptolide inhibits HSP70. Because microRNAs (miRNA) are becoming increasingly recognized as negative regulators of gene expression, we tested whether triptolide regulates HSP70 via miRNAs. Here, we show that triptolide as well as quercetin, but not gemcitabine, upregulated miR-142-3p in PDAC cells (MIA PaCa-2, Capan-1, and S2-013). Ectopic expression of miR-142-3p inhibited cell proliferation, measured by electric cell-substrate impedance sensing, and decreased HSP70 expression, measured by real-time PCR and immunoblotting, compared with controls. We showed that miR-142-3p directly binds to the 3′UTR of HSP70, and that this interaction is important as HSP70 overexpression rescued miR-142-3p-induced cell death. We found that miR-142-3p regulates HSP70 independently of heat shock factor 1. Furthermore, Minnelide, a water-soluble prodrug of triptolide, induced the expression of miR-142-3p in vivo. This is the first description of an miRNA-mediated mechanism of HSP70 regulation in cancer, making miR-142-3p an attractive target for PDAC therapeutic intervention.
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