Journal of Molecular Medicine

, Volume 96, Issue 10, pp 1095–1106 | Cite as

Oxidative stress-induced miRNAs modulate AKT signaling and promote cellular senescence in uterine leiomyoma

  • Xiuhua Xu
  • J. Julie Kim
  • Yinuo Li
  • Jia Xie
  • Changshun Shao
  • Jian-Jun WeiEmail author
Original Article


Uterine leiomyomas (ULM) grow under high oxidative stress due to a hypoxic microenvironment and defects in redox metabolism. AKT is one major pathway activated by reactive oxygen species (ROS) that maintains ULM growth and survival. We previously reported that AKT inactivated by AKT inhibitors can significantly induce cellular senescence in ULM cells. Since some miRNAs are induced by AKT inhibitors in an ROS-dependent manner, we proposed that these miRNAs may modulate AKT function and cellular senescence in ULM. We therefore established ex vivo models of a three-dimensional ULM spheroid culture system to study the role of miRNAs in cellular senescence. Four miRNAs, miR-29b, miR-181a, miR-182, and miR-200c, were found to induce cellular senescence in primary ULM and myometrium spheroid cultures when stably overexpressed. miR-181a and miR-182 were found to repress AKT3 and CCND2, respectively. Correspondingly, RNAi of AKT3 or CCND2 also induced cellular senescence and G0/G1 arrest. Thus, miR-181a and miR-182 may drive cellular senescence in ULM by repressing AKT3 and CCND2 activity, respectively. We further demonstrated that senescent ULM cells can be effectively removed by BH3 mimetic ABT263, which provides a new therapeutic venue for the treatment of ULM. Our findings suggest that miRNAs are potent modulators in regulating the ROS-AKT-cell cycle axis in uterine leiomyoma.

Key messages

  • A subset of oxidative stress-induced miRNAs is involved in AKT signaling in uterine leiomyoma.

  • Overexpression of miR-181a and miR-182 resulted in cellular senescence in leiomyoma through repression of AKT3 and CCND2, respectively.

  • Silencing of AKT3 and CCND2 drives leiomyoma cell into senescence and cycle arrest.

  • Application of our newly developed 3D leiomyoma spheroids can provide a quick and reliable ex vivo model for cytopathologic and functional analysis.

  • BH3 mimetics can effectively reduce the viability of miRNA-mediated senescent cells in leiomyoma.


Leiomyoma Senescence miR-181a miR-182 AKT3 CCND2 



We thank Drs. Serdar Bulun, Debabrata Chakravarti, and Ping Yin for their valuable scientific comments and technical supports, as well as Mrs. Stacy Ann Kujawa for consenting patients and providing all fresh samples for the study. All immunostains and histology were performed in the Pathology Core Facility.


This study was supported by NIH P01HD57877, NSFC grant 81572785, and China Scholarship Council.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent were received in all patients included in this study.

Supplementary material

109_2018_1682_MOESM1_ESM.docx (6.9 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 7075 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PathologyNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Experimental Teratology Ministry of Education, Department of Molecular Medicine and GeneticsShandong University School of MedicineJinanChina
  3. 3.Department of Reproductive MedicineThe Second Hospital of Hebei Medical UniversityShijiazhuangChina
  4. 4.Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology-Division of Reproductive Science in MedicineNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  5. 5.The First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, Institutes for Translational Medicine and State Key Laboratory of Radiation Medicine and RadioprotectionSoochow UniversitySuzhouChina
  6. 6.Department of Pathology, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA

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