Long non-coding RNA HOTAIR predicts negative prognosis and exhibits oncogenic activity

HOX transcript antisense RNA (HOTAIR), which is expressed from the homebox C gene (HOXC) locus, is capable of reprogramming chromatin organisation and promoting cancer cell metastasis and can simultaneously bind the polycomb repressive complex 2, which enhances H3K27 trimethylation, and the LSD1-CoREST-REST complex, which is critical for H3K4 demethylation. Clinically, the overexpression of HOTAIR is a powerful predictor of the tumour progression and overall survival in patients with diverse cancers. The relationship between HOTAIR and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), however, remains unclear.

Now, researchers from the Chinese PLA General Hospial have  investigated the role of HOTAIR in the pathogenesis of ESCC. They used quantitative real-time PCR to determine the level of HOTAIR in ESCC cell lines and 100 ESCC samples from patients. The levels of HOTAIR were increased in ESCC cell lines and patient samples compared with the controls; the expression levels correlated with the disease stage and survival time. The knockdown of HOTAIR in the KYSE510 and KYSE180 ESCC cell lines using small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) reduced the ability of the cells to form foci, migrate, and invade the extracellular matrix in culture, altered cell cycle progression, and increased the sensitivity of the cells to apoptosis. The HOTAIR knockdown reduced cancer cell metastasis in vivo, and the tumours formed by HOTAIR-silenced ESCC cells were smaller, both in size and weight, than the tumours and metastases formed by the shRNA vector control cells in a mouse xenograft model.

HOX transcript antisense RNA is upregulated in ESCC cell lines and patient samples, and promotes ESCC cell proliferation and tumour metastasis in mice. The knockdown of HOTAIR resulted in significant changes in gene expression, and data analysis suggested that HOTAIR-mediated gene regulation has a critical role in ESCC progression and is a novel epigenetic molecular target for treating ESCC patients.

  • Li X, Wu Z, Mei Q, Li X, Guo M, Fu X, Han W. (2013) Long non-coding RNA HOTAIR, a driver of malignancy, predicts negative prognosis and exhibits oncogenic activity in oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Br J Cancer [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

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