Theranostics 2018; 8(16):4409-4428. doi:10.7150/thno.26467 This issue

Research Paper

Suppression of metastasis through inhibition of chitinase 3-like 1 expression by miR-125a-3p-mediated up-regulation of USF1

Ki Cheon Kim1#, Jaesuk Yun2#, Dong Ju Son1, Ji Young Kim1, Jae-Kyung Jung1, Jeong Soon Choi1, Yu Ri Kim1, Ju Kyung Song1, Sun Young Kim1, Sin Kook Kang1, Dae Hwan Shin1, Yoon-Seok Roh1, Sang-Bae Han1,✉, Jin Tae Hong1,✉

1. College of Pharmacy and Medical Research Center, Chungbuk National University, Osongsaengmyeong 1-ro 194-21, Osong-eup, Heungduk-gu, Cheongju, Chungbuk, 28160, Republic of Korea
2. Department of Pharmacy, Wonkwang University, 460 Iksandae-ro, Iksan, Jeonbuk, 54538, Republic of Korea
#These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Kim KC, Yun J, Son DJ, Kim JY, Jung JK, Choi JS, Kim YR, Song JK, Kim SY, Kang SK, Shin DH, Roh YS, Han SB, Hong JT. Suppression of metastasis through inhibition of chitinase 3-like 1 expression by miR-125a-3p-mediated up-regulation of USF1. Theranostics 2018; 8(16):4409-4428. doi:10.7150/thno.26467. Available from

File import instruction


Graphic abstract

Rationale: Chitinase 3-like 1 (Chi3L1) protein is up-regulated in various diseases including solid cancers. According to Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS)/Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM)/Differentially Expressed Gene (DEG) analyses, Chi3L1 is associated with 38 cancers, and more highly associated with cancer compared to other oncogenes such as EGFR, TNFα, etc. However, the mechanisms and pathways by which Chi3L1 is associated with cancer are not clear. In current study, we investigated the role of Chi3L1 in lung metastasis.

Methods: We performed the differentially expressed gene analysis to explore the genes which are associated with Chi3L1 using the web-based platform from Biomart. We investigated the metastases in lung tissues of C57BL/6 mice injected with B16F10 melanoma following treatment with Ad-shChi3L1. We also investigated the expression of USF1 and Chi3L1 in Chi3L1 KD mice lung tissues by Western blotting and IHC. We also analyzed lung cancer cells metastases induced by Chi3L1 using migration and cell proliferation assay in human lung cancer cell lines. The involvement of miR-125a-3p in Chi3L1 regulation was determined by miRNA qPCR and luciferase reporter assay.

Results: We showed that melanoma metastasis in lung tissues was significantly reduced in Chi3L1 knock-down mice, accompanied by down-regulation of MMP-9, MMP-13, VEGF, and PCNA in Chi3L1 knock-down mice lung tissue, as well as in human lung cancer cell lines. We also found that USF1 was conversely expressed against Chi3L1. USF1 was increased by knock-down of Chi3L1 in mice lung tissues, as well as in human lung cancer cell lines. In addition, knock-down of USF1 increased Chi3L1 levels in addition to augmenting metastasis cell migration and proliferation in mice model, as well as in human cancer cell lines. Moreover, in human lung tumor tissues, the expression of Chi3L1 was increased but USF1 was decreased in a stage-dependent manner. Finally, Chi3L1 expression was strongly regulated by the indirect translational suppressing activity of USF1 through induction of miR-125a-3p, a target of Chi3L1.

Conclusion: Metastases in mice lung tissues and human lung cancer cell lines were decreased by KD of Chi3L1. USF1 bound to the Chi3L1 promoter, however, Chi3L1 expression was decreased by USF1, despite USF1 enhancing the transcriptional activity of Chi3L1. We found that USF1 induced miR-125a-3p levels which suppressed Chi3L1 expression. Ultimately, our results suggest that lung metastasis is suppressed by knock-down of Chi3L1 through miR-125a-3p-mediated up-regulation of USF1.

Keywords: Chi3L1, lung cancer, metastasis, USF1, miRNA 125a-3p