Keloids are fibrous overgrowths induced by cutaneous injury. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have recently emerged as post-transcriptional gene repressors and participants in a diverse array of pathophysiological processes leading to skin disease. The purpose of a recent study by researchers from University of Electronic Science and Technology of China was to explore the precise functions of miR-181a in human keloid development and the underlying mechanisms.

miRNA microarray analysis was performed to compare expression profiles between keloid and normal skin tissues. Quantitative real-time PCR was conducted to estimate miR-181a expression. Cell proliferation was determined using the cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) and 5-ethynyl-2-deoxyuridine (EdU) assays, and cell cycle and apoptosis were detected with flow cytometry. Direct targets of miR-181a were identified using the luciferase reporter assay.


Results revealed that miR-181a was significantly upregulated in human keloid tissues and fibroblasts, compared with their control counterparts. Overexpression of miR-181a enhanced keloid fibroblast DNA synthesis and proliferation and inhibited apoptosis, whereas miR-181a suppression triggered the opposite effects. Moreover, miR-181a suppressed the expression of PH domain leucine-rich repeat protein phosphatase 2 (PHLPP2) through direct interactions with its 3′UTR region and subsequently enhanced AKT activation. Overexpression of PHLPP2 without its 3′UTR attenuated the effects of miR-181a on cell proliferation and apoptosis in keloid fibroblast cells. Furthermore, miR-181a mimics increased normal skin fibroblast proliferation.

These results highlight a novel pathway mediated by miR-181a, which may be effectively used as a therapeutic target for treatment of keloids.


Z. Rang, Z. Wang, Q. Pang, Y. Wang, G. Yang, F. Cui (2016) MiR-181a Targets PHLPP2 to Augment AKT Signaling and Regulate Proliferation and Apoptosis in Human Keloid Fibroblasts Cell Physiol Biochem. 40:796-806  doi: 10.1159/000453139 [abstract]

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