Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Molecular and Cellular Biology

First Advisor

Kimberly K. Leslie


Endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women and the most common gynecological malignancy. While patient outcome has improved for the majority of cancers, the outlook for endometrial cancer has steadily decreased. In order to address this problem, we must better understand the different mechanisms involved in endometrial cancer development and progression. To this end, we quantified expression of 667 miRNAs in four endometrioid adenocarcinoma and four serous adenocarcinoma using Taqman Low Density Arrays (TLDAs). miR-888 was one of the most highly overexpressed miRNAs in both endometrial cancer subtypes. Analysis of miR-888 expression across multiple cancer types using the The Cancer Genome Atlas database revealed that miR-888 was selectively expressed in endometrial cancer, with a significant association to invasive and high grade tumors. In addition, miR-888 was most predominantly expressed in endometrial carcinosarcoma, a rare but deadly form of endometrial cancer. Therefore, we conclude that miR-888 expression marks an aggressive endometrial tumor phenotype.

One of the top predicted targets of miR-888 by TargetScan is the progesterone receptor (PR). PR is a potent tumor suppressor of the endometrium whose expression is often lost in advanced endometrial cancers. We quantified PR mRNA expression in a panel of endometrial tumors and found a statistically significant, negative correlation between miR-888 and PR mRNA expression. Furthermore, overexpression of miR-888 in endometrial cancer cell lines was capable of decreasing PR at the protein level. To determine if miR-888 directly targets PR, we cloned each of the four miR-888 binding sites downstream of Renilla luciferase into the psiCHECK2 reporter vector. miR-888 overexpression was capable of decreasing luciferase activity for all four binding sites, with the second and third binding sites producing the most prominent results. Here we describe a novel mechanism by which miR-888 inhibits PR mRNA translation to negatively regulate PR expression in endometrial tumors.

To determine the endogenous function of miR-888 in human cells, we quantified miR-888 in a panel of 21 normal human tissues. Interestingly, miR-888 was highly expressed in testes, with minimal or absence of expression in all other tissues investigated. The restricted expression pattern of miR-888 in testes and cancer suggested that miR-888 may qualify as a novel cancer-testis (CT) antigen. CT-antigens are a large class of genes that demonstrate selective expression normally in testes germ cells and abnormally in various types of cancer. Furthermore, CT-antigen genes are predominantly located on the X chromosome and are part of evolutionarily novel multicopy gene families. Indeed, miR-888 is part of a multicopy, primate-specific miRNA gene family located on the X-chromosome. Furthermore, miRNA in situ hybridization localized miR-888 expression to the early stages of spermatogenesis, as is often observed for CT antigens. Together, these data identify miR-888 as the first miRNA CT antigen and expand the CT antigen field to noncoding RNAs.


cancer-testis antigen, endometrial cancer, microRNA, miR-888, progesterone receptor


xv, 134 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 107-116).


Copyright 2014 Adriann Marie Hovey

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