Identification of targets of tumor suppressor microRNA-34a using a reporter library system.

miRNAs play critical roles in various biological processes by targeting specific mRNAs. Current approaches to identifying miRNA targets are insufficient for elucidation of a miRNA regulatory network. Here, we created a cell-based screening system using a luciferase reporter library composed of 4,891 full-length cDNAs, each of which was integrated into the 3' UTR of a luciferase gene. Using this reporter library system, we conducted a screening for targets of miR-34a, a tumor-suppressor miRNA. We identified both previously characterized and previously uncharacterized targets. miR-34a overexpression in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells repressed the expression of these previously unrecognized targets. Among these targets, GFRA3 is crucial for MDA-MB-231 cell growth, and its expression correlated with the overall survival of patients with breast cancer. Furthermore, GFRA3 was found to be directly regulated by miR-34a via its coding region. These data show that this system is useful for elucidating miRNA functions and networks.