Glycine N-methyltransferase (GNMT) is a tumor suppressor for HCC. It is down-regulated in HCC, but the mechanism is not fully understood. MicroRNA-224 (miR-224) acts as an onco-miR in HCC. This study is the first to investigate miR-224 targeting the coding region of GNMT transcript. The GNMT-MT plasmid containing a miR-224 binding site silent mutation of the GNMT coding sequence can escape the suppression of miR-224 in HEK293T cells. Expression of both exogenous and endogenous GNMT was suppressed by miR-224, while miR-224 inhibitor enhanced GNMT expression. miR-224 counteracts the effects of GNMT on the reduction of cell proliferation and tumor growth. The levels of miR-224 and GNMT mRNA showed a significant inverse relationship in tumor specimens from HCC patients. Utilizing CCl4-treated hepatoma cells and mice as a cell damage of inflammatory or liver injury model, we observed that the decreased expression levels of GNMT were accompanied with the elevated expression levels of miR-224 in hepatoma cells and mouse liver. Finally, hepatic AAV-mediated GNMT also reduced CCl4-induced miR-224 expression and liver fibrosis. These results indicated that AAV-mediated GNMT has potential liver protection activity. miR-224 can target the GNMT mRNA coding sequence and plays an important role in GNMT suppression during liver tumorigenesis.
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