Abstract

MicroRNA 155 (miRNA-155) is frequently dysregulated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and other cancer types. Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3), a putative miR-155 target, plays a key role in liver pathophysiology, and its downregulation in HCC cells is associated with apoptosis evasion and poor outcomes. Herein, we examined the ability of in situ self-assembled Au-antimiR-155 nanocomplexes (Au-antimiRNA NCs) to activate TLR3 signaling in HCC cells. Gene expression analysis confirmed an inverse relationship between miR-155 and TLR3 expression in HCC samples, and marked upregulation of miR-155 was observed in HCC cells but not in normal L02 hepatocytes. RNA immunoprecipitation confirmed physical interaction between miR-155 and TLR3, while negative regulation of TLR3 expression by miR-155 was demonstrated by luciferase reporter assays. Au-antimiR-155 NCs were self-assembled within HepG2 HCC cells, but not within control L02 cells. They efficiently silenced miR-155, thereby inhibiting proliferation and migration and inducing apoptosis in HepG2 cells. Molecular analyses suggested these effects are secondary to TLR3 signaling mediating NF-κB transcription, caspase-8 activation, and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) release. Our results provide a basis for future studies examining the in vivo applicability of this novel Au-antimiRNA NCs delivery system to halt HCC progression by activating pro-apoptotic TLR3 signaling.