Insulin-like growth factor 2 mRNA-binding protein-1 (IMP1) has high affinity for KRAS mRNA, and it can regulate KRAS expression in cells. We first characterized the molecular interaction between IMP1 and KRAS mRNA. Using IMP1 variants with a point mutation in the GXXG motif at each KH domain, we showed that all KH domains play a critical role in the binding of KRAS RNA. We mapped the IMP1-binding sites on KRAS mRNA and show that IMP1 has the highest affinity for nts 1–185. Although it has lower affinity, IMP1 does bind to other coding regions and the 3′-UTR of KRAS mRNA. Eight antisense oligonucleotides (AONs) were designed against KRAS RNA in the nts 1–185 region, but only two, SM6 and SM7, show potent inhibition of the IMP1–KRAS RNA interaction in vitro. To test the activity of these two AONs in SW480 human colon cancer cells, we used 2′-O-methyl-modified versions of SM6 and SM7 in an attempt to down-regulate KRAS expression. To our surprise, both SM6 and SM7 had no effect on KRAS mRNA and protein expression, but significantly inhibited IMP1 protein expression without altering IMP1 mRNA level. On the other hand, knockdown of IMP1 using siRNA lowered the expression of KRAS. Using Renilla luciferase as a reporter, we found that IMP1 translation is significantly reduced in SM7-treated cells with no change in let-7a levels. The present study shows that the regulation of KRAS expression by IMP1 is complex and may involve both the IMP1 protein and its mRNA transcript.

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