Metastasis is a multistep process that involves the deregulation of oncogenes and tumor suppressors beyond changes required for primary tumor formation. RHOB is known to have tumor suppressor activity, and its knockdown is associated with more aggressive tumors as well as changes in cell shape, migration, and adhesion. This study shows that oncogenic microRNA, miR-21, represses RHOB expression by directly targeting the 3' untranslated region. Loss of miR-21 is associated with an elevation of RHOB in hepatocellular carcinoma cell lines Huh-7 and HepG2 and in the metastatic breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231. Using in vitro models of distinct stages of metastasis, we showed that loss of miR-21 also causes a reduction in migration, invasion, and cell elongation. The reduction in migration and cell elongation can be mimicked by overexpression of RHOB. Furthermore, changes in miR-21 expression lead to alterations in matrix metalloproteinase-9 activity. Therefore, we conclude that miR-21 promotes multiple components of the metastatic phenotype in vitro by regulating several important tumor suppressors, including RHOB.
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