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This article is the author's final published version in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Volume 120, Issue 20, 2023, Article number e2220334120.

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Copyright © 2023 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).


Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is a deadly disease with few prevention or treatment options. ESCC development in humans and rodents is associated with Zn deficiency (ZD), inflammation, and overexpression of oncogenic microRNAs: miR-31 and miR-21. In a ZD-promoted ESCC rat model with upregulation of these miRs, systemic antimiR-31 suppresses the miR-31-EGLN3/STK40-NF-κB-controlled inflammatory pathway and ESCC. In this model, systemic delivery of Zn-regulated antimiR-31, followed by antimiR-21, restored expression of tumor-suppressor proteins targeted by these specific miRs: STK40/EGLN3 (miR-31), PDCD4 (miR-21), suppressing inflammation, promoting apoptosis, and inhibiting ESCC development. Moreover, ESCC-bearing Zn-deficient (ZD) rats receiving Zn medication showed a 47% decrease in ESCC incidence vs. Zn-untreated controls. Zn treatment eliminated ESCCs by affecting a spectrum of biological processes that included downregulation of expression of the two miRs and miR-31-controlled inflammatory pathway, stimulation of miR-21-PDCD4 axis apoptosis, and reversal of the ESCC metabolome: with decrease in putrescine, increase in glucose, accompanied by downregulation of metabolite enzymes ODC and HK2. Thus, Zn treatment or miR-31/21 silencing are effective therapeutic strategies for ESCC in this rodent model and should be examined in the human counterpart exhibiting the same biological processes.

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

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