Defective DNA damage response (DDR) is frequently associated with tumorigenesis. Abrogation of DDR leads to genomic instability, which is one of the most common characteristics of human cancers. TP53 mutations with gain-of-function activity are associated with tumors under high replicative stress, high genomic instability, and reduced patient survival. The BRCA1 and RAD17 genes encode two pivotal DNA repair proteins required for proper cell-cycle regulation and maintenance of genomic stability. We initially evaluated whether miR-205-5p, a microRNA (miRNA) highly expressed in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), targeted BRCA1 and RAD17 expression. We found that, in vitro and in vivo, BRCA1 and RAD17 are targets of miR-205-5p in HNSCC, leading to inefficient DNA repair and increased chromosomal instability. Conversely, miR-205-5p downregulation increased BRCA1 and RAD17 messenger RNA (mRNA) levels, leading to a reduction in in vivo tumor growth. Interestingly, miR-205-5p expression was significantly anti-correlated with BRCA1 and RAD17 targets. Furthermore, we documented that miR-205-5p expression was higher in tumoral and peritumoral HNSCC tissues than non-tumoral tissues in patients exhibiting reduced local recurrence-free survival. Collectively, these findings unveil miR-205-5p’s notable role in determining genomic instability in HNSCC through its selective targeting of BRCA1 and RAD17 gene expression. High miR-205-5p levels in the peritumoral tissues might be relevant for the early detection of minimal residual disease and pre-cancer molecular alterations involved in tumor development.
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