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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the publishers final verison published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020, Volume 117, Issue 11, pp. 6075-6085

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MicroRNA-31 (miR-31) is overexpressed in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), a deadly disease associated with dietary Zn deficiency and inflammation. In a Zn deficiency-promoted rat ESCC model with miR-31 up-regulation, cancer-associated inflammation, and a high ESCC burden following N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine (NMBA) exposure, systemic antimiR-31 delivery reduced ESCC incidence from 85 to 45% (P = 0.038) and miR-31 gene knockout abrogated development of ESCC (P = 1 × 10-6). Transcriptomics, genome sequencing, and metabolomics analyses in these Zn-deficient rats revealed the molecular basis of ESCC abrogation by miR-31 knockout. Our identification of EGLN3, a known negative regulator of nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), as a direct target of miR-31 establishes a functional link between oncomiR-31, tumor suppressor target EGLN3, and up-regulated NF-κB-controlled inflammation signaling. Interaction among oncogenic miR-31, EGLN3 down-regulation, and inflammation was also documented in human ESCCs. miR-31 deletion resulted in suppression of miR-31-associated EGLN3/NF-κB-controlled inflammatory pathways. ESCC-free, Zn-deficient miR-31-/- rat esophagus displayed no genome instability and limited metabolic activity changes vs. the pronounced mutational burden and ESCC-associated metabolic changes of Zn-deficient wild-type rats. These results provide conclusive evidence that miR-31 expression is necessary for ESCC development.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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