Newly discovered biomarker miR-591 inhibits cancer cell proliferation and invasion


About 5000 years ago, the inhabitants in east Finland first discovered asbestos and used it to make their cooking utensils strong (1). In the mid-19th Century, the large-scale industrial use of asbestos began in the manufacturing of cremation cloths, lamp wicks, hats and shoes. Later on, asbestos application became widespread in all kinds of living supplies – including concrete, bricks and other building materials. Today, there are still a substantial number of houses in the U.K. and in the U.S. that contain asbestos (2).

Soon people began to realize that asbestos fibers can cause serious health hazards in humans (3). Though asbestos use is now largely banned worldwide in many countries, the harmful effects of previously used asbestos are still continuing. Numerous studies on the health impact of asbestos have suggested that asbestos might be one of the leading causes of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). MPM is an aggressive cancer commonly affecting the lining of lungs and chest wall. Currently, MPM is resistant to all conventional treatments, and patients usually die within one year (4). Thus, a comprehensive understanding of the molecular pathology of MPM and the development of new therapeutic regimen is urgently warranted.

A new gene expression study by Cheng et al. showed that miR-591 is a potent MPM tumor suppressor (4). The authors transfected the miR-591 mimics to three different cell lines and then investigated the assays for cell growth, proliferation and invasion. The harvested RNA was isolated using the RNeasy Mini Kit and the miRNeasy Mini Kit. Reverse transcription was carried out for miRNA expression values. Results revealed that overexpressing miR-591 in three different MPM cell lines significantly decreased cell growth, proliferation and invasion.

The authors also investigated miR-591 impact on cell motility genes, using the Human Cell Motility RT2 Profiler PCR Array. This panel of 84 genes includes genes related to cell motility, such as matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP2) and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). Cheng et al. found that both MMP2 and TGF-β1 were downregulated in MPM cell lines where miR-591 was overexpressed – suggesting that miR-591 might have been responsible for the reduced mobility of these particular MPM cells.

MicroRNA (miRNA) and gene expression tools are able to provide valuable information, including the potential roles that miRNA may play in cancer development.

Are you interested, yourself, in identifying new microRNA biomarkers or in investigating miRNA roles within the cell? Check out our renewed GeneGlobe, where you can easily find products that best suit your research needs for miRNA gene expression analysis or NGS. You may also analyze your real-time PCR results using our Data Analysis Center!



  1. 1. Ross, M. and Nolan, R.P. (2003) History of asbestos discovery and use and asbestos-related disease in context with the occurrence of asbestos within the ophiolite complexes. Boulder, CO: The Geological Society of America. (Link)
  2. 2. Don, A. (2011) Asbestos: the hidden health hazard in millions of homes. The Guardian, May 1, 2011. (Link)
  3. 3. World Health Organization. (Link)
  4. 4. Cheng, S., Xu, Y., Shi, Z., Lin, Y., Hoang, C.D. and Zhang, X. (2016) Overexpression of micro ribonucleic acid-591 inhibits cell proliferation and invasion of malignant pleural mesothelioma cells. Thorac Cancer 7, 340–347. (Link)
Lily Xu Xuanyan

Lily Xu graduated from Leiden University, The Netherlands, after studying biochemistry and science-based business. With a background in both molecular genetics and the commercialization of new technologies, Lily joined QIAGEN in 2012. Since then, she has been involved in managing various parts of QIAGEN’s sample and assay portfolio. Lily's interests span several emerging fields, particularly single-cell analysis and microRNA biomarker discovery.

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