Background: Treatment of cancer with natural chemotherapeutic agents induces apoptosis
along with remarkable alterations in the expression of apoptosis-related genes. Deregulation of microRNA
(miRNA) expression is implicated in several human malignancies. Vinca alkaloids compose a
class of antimitotic drugs preventing cancer cells from dividing, leading to apoptosis. They are commonly
used in clinical practice for breast cancer treatment.
Objective: The present study focused on the effects of vinca alkaloids (vincristine, vinblastine, and vinorelbine)
on miRNA expression of treated breast cancer cells.
Methods: We investigated the effect of vincristine, vinblastine, and vinorelbine on the expression of
oncogenic and tumor-suppressive miRNAs (miR-15a-5p, miR-16-5p, miR-21-5p, miR-25-3p, miR-
29b-3p, miR-125b-5p, miR-148a-3p, miR-214-3p, miR-221-3p, miR-222-3p, and miR-421), as well as
on the expression of the apoptosis-related genes BAX, BCL2, TP53, and CDKN1B in BT-20 and SKBR-
3 breast adenocarcinoma cells.
Results: Treatment of BT-20 cells with vincristine, vinblastine, and/or vinorelbine resulted in upregulation
of TP53 expression. However, no alterations in the mRNA levels of the pivotal BCL2 family
members BAX and BCL2 were observed. On the other hand, treatment of SK-BR-3 cells with any of
these vinca alkaloids led to an increase in the BAX/BCL2 mRNA ratio, implying the activation of the
intrinsic apoptotic pathway. No concomitant alteration in TP53 expression was observed in treated SKBR-
3 cells. Regarding the miRNAs examined in this study, miR-222-3p expression exhibited the most
remarkable modulations in both treated cell lines.
Conclusion: This study suggests the possible involvement of miR-222-3p expression in breast cancer
cell apoptosis, triggered by vincristine, vinblastine, and vinorelbine.