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miR-206 integrates multiple components of differentiation pathways to control the transition from growth to differentiation in rhabdomyosarcoma cells

Kyle L MacQuarrie12, Zizhen Yao1, Janet M Young13, Yi Cao1 and Stephen J Tapscott14*

Author Affiliations

1 Human Biology Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Ave N, C3-168, Seattle, WA, 98109, USA

2 Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98105, USA

3 Division of Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, 98109, USA

4 Department of Neurology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98105, USA

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Skeletal Muscle 2012, 2:7  doi:10.1186/2044-5040-2-7

Published: 29 April 2012



Similar to replicating myoblasts, many rhabdomyosarcoma cells express the myogenic determination gene MyoD. In contrast to myoblasts, rhabdomyosarcoma cells do not make the transition from a regulative growth phase to terminal differentiation. Previously we demonstrated that the forced expression of MyoD with its E-protein dimerization partner was sufficient to induce differentiation and suppress multiple growth-promoting genes, suggesting that the dimer was targeting a switch that regulated the transition from growth to differentiation. Our data also suggested that a balance between various inhibitory transcription factors and MyoD activity kept rhabdomyosarcomas trapped in a proliferative state.


Potential myogenic co-factors were tested for their ability to drive differentiation in rhabdomyosarcoma cell culture models, and their relation to MyoD activity determined through molecular biological experiments.


Modulation of the transcription factors RUNX1 and ZNF238 can induce differentiation in rhabdomyosarcoma cells and their activity is integrated, at least in part, through the activation of miR-206, which acts as a genetic switch to transition the cell from a proliferative growth phase to differentiation. The inhibitory transcription factor MSC also plays a role in controlling miR-206, appearing to function by occluding a binding site for MyoD in the miR-206 promoter.


These findings support a network model composed of coupled regulatory circuits with miR-206 functioning as a switch regulating the transition from one stable state (growth) to another (differentiation).

Rhabdomyosarcoma; RUNX1; ZNF238; miR-206; MSC; myogenesis