MicroRNA (miRNA) is a short strand of RNA that regulates the translation of messenger RNAs into proteins inside the cell. Recent evidence shows that miRNAs are also found outside of the cell, and that they likely play a role in cell-to-cell communications, including communications between cancer cells and the cells in their environment. To better understand the role that miRNA may play in cancer growth and metastasis requires knowledge of how it is exported out of the cell and how that export is regulated. Now, Basic Sciences investigator Alissa Weaver and her laboratory show that miRNA is exported in vesicles called exosomes in conjunction with the protein Argonaute 2 and that export is controlled by KRAS, a signaling protein that is known to be associated with many forms of cancer. This exciting discovery provides critical insight into the connection between miRNA, KRAS, and cancer and may ultimately point to new therapeutic targets for cancers in which miRNAs play an important role. The work is published in the journal Cell Reports [A. J. McKenzie, et al. (2016), Cell Rep., 15, 978].
Figure reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license from A. J. McKenzie, et al. (2016), Cell Rep., 15, 978.