Fluoro-edenite (FE) is a silicate mineral identified in the lava products of Monte Calvario from stone quarries located in the southeast of Biancavilla, a small city of the Etnean volcanic complex (Sicily, Italy). Inhalation of FE fibers has been associated with a higher incidence of Malignant Mesothelioma (MM), a highly aggressive neoplasm of the serosal membranes lining the pleural cavity. Only 5% of MM patients are diagnosed at an early stage and the median survival is approximate 6-12 months.Many diagnostic biomarkers have been proposed for MM. Several studies demonstrated that microRNAs (miRNAs) may be used as good non-invasive diagnostics, as well as prognostic biomarkers for various human diseases, including cancer.On these bases, the aim of the present study was to identify a set of miRNAs involved in the development and progression of MM and potentially used as diagnostic biomarkers. For these purposes, in silico analyses were performed on healthy/exposed to asbestos fibers subjects vs. patients with MM. These analyses revealed a set of miRNAs strictly involved in MM by merging the lists of miRNAs found differentially expressed in the three miRNA expression datasets analyzed. The result of these computational evaluations allowed the execution of functional in vitro experiments performed on normal pleural mesothelial cell line (MeT-5A) and MM cell line (JU77) in order to test the carcinogenetic effects and epigenetic modulation induced by FE exposure.The in vitro results showed that the expression levels of hsa-miR-323a-3p vary significantly in both supernatant- and cell-derived miRNAs derived from treated and untreated cells. Secreted and cellular hsa-miR-101-3p in MeT-5A treated with FE fibers and JU77 cells showed different trends of expression. As regard hsa-miR-20b-5p, there was no differential expression between secreted and cellular hsa-miR-20b-5p. This miRNA has been shown a significant up-regulation in JU77 cells vs. control and treated MeT-5A.As a future plan, translational analyses will be performed on a subset of patients chronically exposed to FE fibers to further verify the clinical role of such miRNAs in high-risk individuals and their possible use as biomarkers of FE exposure or MM early onset.
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