The central role of the microRNA (miR) 15a/16-1 cluster in B-cell oncogenesis has been extensively demonstrated, with over two-thirds of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia characterized by the deletion of the miR-15a/16-1 locus at 13q14. Despite the well-established understanding of the molecular mechanisms occurring during miR-15a/16-1 dysregulation, the oncogenic role of other miR-15/16 family members, such as the miR-15b/16-2 cluster (3q25), is still far from being elucidated. Whereas miR-15a is highly similar to miR-15b, miR-16-1 is identical to miR-16-2; thus, it could be speculated that both clusters control a similar set of target genes and may have overlapping functions. However, the biological role of miR-15b/16-2 is still controversial. We generated miR-15b/16-2 knockout mice to better understand the cluster's role in vivo. These mice developed B-cell malignancy by age 15-18 mo with a penetrance of 60%. At this stage, mice showed significantly enlarged spleens with abnormal B cell-derived white pulp enlargement. Flow cytometric analysis demonstrated an expanded CD19+ CD5+ population in the spleen of 40% knockout mice, a characteristic of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia-associated phenotype found in humans. Of note, miR-15b/16-2 modulates the CCND2 (Cyclin D2), CCND1 (Cyclin D1), and IGF1R (insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor) genes involved in proliferation and antiapoptotic pathways in mouse B cells. These results are the first, to our knowledge, to suggest an important role of miR-15b/16-2 loss in the pathogenesis of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
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