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The RNA Binding Protein HuR: A Promising Drug Target For Anticancer Therapy

Mingxia Wu, Christy W.S. Tong, Wei Yan, Kenneth K.W. To, William C.S. Cho

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The stability of mRNA is one of the key factors governing the regulation of eukaryotic gene expression and function. Human antigen R (HuR) is an RNA-binding protein that regulates the stability, translation, and nucleus-to-cytoplasm shuttling of its target mRNAs. While HuR is normally localized within the nucleus, it has been shown that HuR binds mRNAs in the nucleus and then escorts the mRNAs to the cytoplasm where HuR protects them from degradation. It contains several RNA recognition motifs, which specifically bind to adenylate and uridylate-rich regions within the 3’-untranslated region of the target mRNA to mediate its effect. Many of the HuR target mRNAs encode proteins important for cell growth, tumorigenesis, angiogenesis, tumor inflammation, invasion and metastasis. HuR overexpression is known to correlate well with high-grade malignancy and poor prognosis in many tumor types. Thus, HuR has emerged as an attractive drug target for cancer therapy. Novel small molecule HuR inhibitors have been identified by high throughput screening and new formulations for targeted delivery of HuR siRNA to tumor cells have been developed with promising anticancer activity. This review summarizes the significant role of HuR in cancer development, progression, and poor treatment response. We will discuss the potential and challenges of targeting HuR therapeutically.