MicroRNA miR-125b Causes Leukemia

In leukemia, one type of blood cell divides in an uncontrolled fashion in the bone marrow, crowding out other blood cells and frequently causing lowered immunity, anemia, and organ damage.

22,000 will die from the disease this year.

Whitehead Institute researchers have shown in mouse models that overexpression of the microRNA 125b (miR-125b) can independently cause leukemia and accelerate the disease’s progression.

“MicroRNAs are elevated in many cancers, but in humans and mice, can upregulation of a microRNA actually cause the cancer? That’s the question,” says Whitehead Institute Founding Member Harvey Lodish. “This 22 nucleotide RNA, one of the smallest RNAs in the body, apparently causes leukemia when it’s overexpressed.”

“Because miR-125b can lead to different kinds of leukemia, it’s a major cancer-causing miR,” says first author Marina Bousquet. “It’s also interesting that overexpression of miR-125b is seen in patients with B-cell lymphoblastic leukemia and myeloid leukemia, so I’m pretty sure we can find overexpression in other leukemias.”

These results are published in this week’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Bousquet M, Harris MH, Zhou B, Lodish HF. (2010) MicroRNA miR-125b causes leukemia. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

(Whitehead Press Release)

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