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p85α is a microRNA target and affects chemosensitivity in pancreatic cancer



We previously identified a correlation between increased expression of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) regulatory subunit p85α and improved survival in human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of changes in p85α expression on response to chemotherapy and the regulation of p85α by microRNA-21 (miR-21).

Materials and methods

PDAC tumor cells overexpressing p85α were generated by viral transduction, and the effect of p85α overexpression on sensitivity to gemcitabine was tested by MTT assay. Primary human PDAC tumors were stained for p85α and miR-21 via immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, respectively. Additionally, PDAC cells were treated with miR-21 mimic, and changes in p85α and phospho-AKT were assessed by Western blot. Finally, a luciferase reporter assay system was used to test direct regulation of p85α by miR-21.


Higher p85α expression resulted in increased sensitivity to gemcitabine (P < 0.01), which correlated with decreased PI3K-AKT activation. Human tumors demonstrated an inverse correlation between miR-21 and p85α expression levels (r = -0.353, P < 0.001). In vitro, overexpression of miR-21 resulted in decreased levels of p85α and increased phosphorylation of AKT. Luciferase reporter assays confirmed the direct regulation of p85α by miR-21 (P < 0.01).


Our results demonstrate that p85α expression is a determinant of chemosensitivity in PDAC. Additionally, we provide novel evidence that miR-21 can influence PI3K-AKT signaling via its direct regulation of p85α. These data provide insight into potential mechanisms for the known relationship between increased p85α expression and improved survival in PDAC.

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