BackgroundMetastasis is a leading cause of cancer-related death including colorectal cancer (CRC). MicroRNAs are known to regulate cancer pathways and to be expressed aberrantly in cancer. Aberrant sialylation is closely associated with malignant phenotype of tumor cells, including invasiveness and metastasis.AimThis study aimed to investigate the association of miR-182 and miR-135b with proliferation and invasion by targeting sialyltransferase ST6GALNAC2 in CRC cells and explore the potential molecular mechanism.MethodsWe measured the levels of miR-182, miR-135b, and ST6GALNAC2 in a series of CRC cell lines and tissues using real-time PCR. Bioinformatics analysis and luciferase reporter assay were performed to test the direct binding of miR-182 and miR-135b to the target gene ST6GALNAC2. We also analyzed the possible role of miR-182/-135b on colony formation, wound healing, invasion, and tube formation.ResultsThe expression of miR-182 and miR-135b was higher in tumor tissues compared to adjacent noncancerous tissues of CRC patients, as well as up-regulated in SW620 cells than in SW480 cells with different metastatic potential. By applying bioinformatics analysis and luciferase reporter assay, we identified ST6GALNAC2 as the direct target of miR-182/-135b. Furthermore, miR-182/-135b inhibited significantly ST6GALNAC2 expression, and consistently, ST6GALNAC2 mediated migration, adhesion, invasion, proliferation, and tumor angiogenesis in CRC cell lines. Additionally, PI3K/AKT signaling pathway was regulated by miR-182/135b, which was partially blocked by altered level of ST6GALNAC2 in CRC.ConclusionsThe miR-182/-135b/ST6GALNAC2/PI3K/AKT axis may serve as a predictive biomarker and a potential therapeutic target in CRC treatment.