Iron is fundamental for sustaining life for living organisms, and the iron metabolism is finely regulated at different levels. In cancer cells, deregulation of the iron metabolism induces oxidative stress and drives tumor progression and metastasis; however, the molecular mechanisms of iron homeostasis are not fully understood. Here we found that iron deficiency as well as hypoxia promoted microRNA-210 (miR-210) expression. A central mediator of miR-210 transcriptional activation is the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α, and the hypoxia-response element in the miR-210 promoter is confirmed experimentally. This is in agreement with the data from in vivo studies that have demonstrated the presence of miR-210-expressing cells at the chronic hypoxic regions of xenografted tumors. Furthermore we found two essential molecules for iron homeostasis, iron-sulfur cluster scaffold protein (ISCU) and transferrin receptor 1 (TfR), are a direct target of miR-210. Transfection ofmiR-210decreases the uptake of transferrin by inhibiting the expression of TfR. In addition, inhibition of miR-210 by anti-miR-210 up-regulates ISCU expression. These findings suggest that miR-210 works as an iron sensor and is involved in the maintenance of iron homeostasis by sustaining the TfR expression level to stimulate cell proliferation and promote cell survival in the hypoxic region within tumors.
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