microRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in regulation of gene expression during cervical carcinogenesis. We investigated expression profiles of miRNAs in cervical cancer and its precursor lesions by utilizing cervical mucus. Cervical mucus was collected from 230 patients with a normal cervix, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), or adenocarcinoma (AD). The levels of miRNA in the mucus were quantified by miRNA array and real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The performance for detecting diseases was statistically analysed. The expression of miRNAs was further validated in the surgical tissues of enrolled patients. Four miRNAs (miR-126-3p, -20b-5p, -451a, and -144-3p) were significantly up-regulated in SCC and AD compared with normal, and their expression levels correlated with disease severity and high-risk human papillomavirus infection. Receiver operating characteristic curve analyses revealed that the area under the curve values for miR-126-3p, -20b-5p, -451a, and -144-3p were 0.89, 0.90, 0.94, and 0.93, respectively, for SCC plus AD compared with normal, showing high accuracy of cancer detection. Real-time RT-PCR analyses confirmed the expression of these four miRNAs in frozen tissues from cervical cancer. miR-126-3p, -20b-5p, -451a, and -144-3p in cervical mucus are promising biomarkers for cervical cancer and high-grade CINs.
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