Long Intergenic Non-Protein Coding RNA 519 Promotes the Biological Activities of Tongue Squamous Cell Carcinoma by Sponging microRNA-876-3p and Consequently Upregulating MACC1
Authors Liu D, Zhao J, Wang H, Li H, Li Y, Qin W
Received 1 September 2020
Accepted for publication 14 October 2020
Published 20 November 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 11975—11990
Checked for plagiarism Yes
Review by Single anonymous peer review
Peer reviewer comments 3
Editor who approved publication: Dr Federico Perche
Dejun Liu, Jing Zhao, Huiling Wang, Hui Li, Yanjie Li, Wangsen Qin
Department of Clinical Laboratory, Henan Provincial People’s Hospital, Zhengzhou, Henan 450003, People’s Republic of China
Correspondence: Wangsen Qin
Department of Clinical Laboratory, Henan Provincial People’s Hospital, 7 Weiwu Road, Zhengzhou, Henan 450003, People’s Republic of China
Email [email protected]
Purpose: Long intergenic non-protein coding RNA 519 (LINC00519) promotes the development of lung squamous cell carcinoma. In this study, we detected the expression of LINC00519 in tongue squamous cell carcinoma (TSCC) and examined its clinical significance. Additionally, the regulatory effects of LINC00519 on behaviors of TSCC tumor cells were explored through functional experiments. Finally, mechanistic studies were performed to elucidate the molecular events underlying the tumor-promoting actions of LINC00519 in TSCC.
Materials and Methods: The expression of LINC00519 in TSCC tissues and cell lines was determined using quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Cell counting kit-8 assay, flow cytometric analysis, cell migration and invasion assays and xenograft tumor model analyses were used to detect TSCC cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration and invasion and in vivo tumor growth, respectively. Mechanistic studies were performed using bioinformatics analysis, RNA immunoprecipitation assay, luciferase reporter assay and rescue experiments.
Results: LINC00519 was overexpressed in both TSCC tissues and cell lines. A high LINC00519 level was associated with poor overall survival in patients with TSCC. In vitro, LINC00519 played cancer-promoting roles in TSCC progression by facilitating cell proliferation, migration and invasion and restraining cell apoptosis. In vivo, LINC00519 downregulation resulted in decreased TSCC tumor growth. Mechanistically, LINC00519 acted as a competing endogenous RNA for microRNA-876-3p (miR-876-3p), which directly targets metastasis associated with colon cancer-1 (MACC1), in TSCC cells. LINC00519 upregulated the expression of MACC1 in TSCC cells by sequestering miR-876-3p. Rescue experiments further affirmed that miR-876-3p inhibition or MACC1 overexpression mitigated the inhibitory influences of LINC00519 depletion on cell proliferation, migration and invasion and neutralized the promoting actions of LINC00519 knockdown on cell apoptosis in TSCC.
Conclusion: LINC00519 aggravated the oncogenicity of TSCC by regulating the miR-876-3p/MACC1 axis. Our findings suggest that the LINC00519/miR-876-3p/MACC1 pathway may be an underlying therapeutic target in TSCC.
Keywords: competing endogenous RNA pathway, metastasis associated in colon cancer-1, tongue squamous cell carcinoma, miRNAs
Tongue squamous cell carcinoma (TSCC) is the most common form of oral cancer, accounting for approximately 25–40% of all oral cancer cases.1 The tongue has an abundant lymphatic and vascular supply and frequent movement, which promote local and distal metastasis.2 Patients with TSCC are prone to high rates of recurrence and lymph node metastasis even after early detection and treatment with first-line therapies, resulting in poor survival.3 The methods used to diagnose and treat TSCC have undergone extensive development in recent decades. Unfortunately, the clinical outcomes of patients with TSCC remain unsatisfying and are mainly attributed to rapid tumor progression.4 Despite numerous scientific studies of basic cellular activity in TSCC,5–7 the detailed molecular events involved in TSCC carcinogenesis and progression are largely elusive. Therefore, a complete recognition of the mechanisms underlying TSCC pathogenesis is urgently needed, as this may be useful in the identification of potential therapeutic targets.
In the human genome, approximately 98% of all transcripts lack an open reading frame and do not encode proteins; these are termed non-coding RNAs.8 Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are a group of non-protein-coding RNA molecules with lengths of >200 nucleotides.9 These lncRNAs contribute to almost all physiological processes, including immune responses, growth, differentiation and metabolism.10,11 Recent studies have identified lncRNAs as drivers of cancer oncogenesis and progression.12–14 Particularly, an increasing number of literature reports suggest the differential expression of lncRNAs in TSCC.15–17 Dysregulated lncRNAs exert oncogenic or anti-oncogenic effects and participate in the regulation of multiple cancer-associated biological behaviors in TSCC.18–20
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a family of short, single-stranded, evolutionarily conserved, non-coding RNA transcripts (17–24 nucleotides). These transcripts can regulate the expression of genes by directly binding to the 3ʹ-untranslated regions (3ʹ-UTRs) of their target genes, thus inducing the RNA induced silencing complex.21 The number of known miRNAs exhibiting aberrant expression in TSCC is increasing, and these transcripts play critical roles in controlling the malignant behaviors of these tumors.22–24 Regarding the associated mechanism, Leonardo Salmena proposed a competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA) theory,25 in which lncRNAs act as miRNA “sponges” and decrease the inhibitory regulatory actions of miRNAs against their target messenger RNAs (mRNAs). Therefore, comprehensive studies of non-coding RNAs and the associated mechanisms may facilitate the development of potential targets for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of TSCC.
Long intergenic non-protein coding RNA 519 (LINC00519) was previously confirmed to promote the development of lung squamous cell carcinoma.26 Nevertheless, the expression and roles of LINC00519 in TSCC and the related mechanisms have not been well studied. Therefore, we detected the expression of LINC00519 in TSCC and examined its clinical significance. Additionally, we explored the regulatory effects of LINC00519 on TSCC tumor cell behaviors through a series of functional experiments. Finally, we conducted mechanistic studies to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the tumor-promoting actions of LINC00519 in TSCC.
Materials and Methods
This study protocol was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of Henan Provincial People’s Hospital (REC-HNPPH.20140702) and was compliant with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. All tissues were obtained after the participants provided written informed consent. A total of 52 TSCC tissues and adjacent normal tissues were collected from patients at Henan Provincial People’s Hospital. All clinical specimens were stored in liquid nitrogen until required. None of the patients had received preoperative chemotherapy or radiotherapy or had a history of other malignancies.
Cell Culture and Transfection
Three human TSCC cell lines, SCC-9, SCC-15 and CAL-27, were acquired from American Type Culture Collection (ATCC; Manassas, VA, USA). SCC-9 and SCC-15 cells were grown in a 1:1 mixture of Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium and Ham’s F12 medium (Gibco; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc., Waltham, MA, USA) containing 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS; Gibco; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.) and 400 ng/mL hydrocortisone. CAL-27 cells were cultivated in Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium (Gibco; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.) supplemented with 10% FBS and 1% penicillin-streptomycin solution (Gibco; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.). Normal human gingival epithelial cells (ATCC® PCS-200-014™; ATCC) were cultured in Minimum Essential Medium (Gibco; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.) containing 10% FBS and 1% penicillin-streptomycin solution. All cells were grown at 37°C in a humidified incubator containing 5% CO2.
Small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) designed to specifically target LINC00519 (si-LINC00519) and a corresponding scrambled negative control (NC) siRNA (si-NC) were obtained from GenePharma Co., Ltd (Shanghai, China). MiR-876-3p mimic, miRNA mimic control (miR-NC), miR-876-3p inhibitor (anti-miR-876-3p) and miRNA inhibitor control (anti-miR-NC) were produced by Ribobio Co., Ltd (Guangzhou, China). The MACC1 overexpression plasmid pcDNA3.1-MACC1 (pc-MACC1), LINC00519 overexpression plasmid pcDNA3.1-LINC00519 (pc-LINC00519) and empty pcDNA3.1 plasmid were designed and constructed by Shanghai Sangon Company (Shanghai, China). Prior to transfection, the cells were inoculated into 6-well plates and incubated at 37°C with 5% CO2. On the next day, transfection was performed using Lipofectamine® 2000 (Invitrogen; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.).
Quantitative Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (qRT-PCR)
TRIzol reagent (Invitrogen; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.) was used to isolate total RNA from tissues or cells. The quality and quantity of the total RNA were determined using a NanoDrop 2000c spectrophotometer (Invitrogen; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.). RNAs were subjected to reverse transcription using the miScript Reverse Transcription kit (Qiagen GmbH, Hilden, Germany), after which miR-876-3p expression was measured via quantitative PCR using the miScript SYBR Green PCR kit (Qiagen GmbH). U6 small nuclear RNA was used as the internal control for miR-876-3p expression. To quantify the expression of LINC00519 and MACC1, total RNA was reverse transcribed into cDNA using the PrimeScript™ RT reagent kit with gDNA Eraser (TaKaRa, Dalian, China), after which quantitative PCR was performed using TB Green® Premix Ex Taq™ II (TaKaRa). The expression levels of LINC00519 and MACC1 were normalized to that of GAPDH. The 2−ΔΔCq method was used to analyze RNA expression data.
Cell Counting Kit-8 (CCK-8) Assay
Transfected cells were detached with trypsin and collected via centrifugation at 24 h post-transfection. The cells were resuspended in a complete culture medium, and a 100 µL volume of suspension containing 2 × 103 cells was inoculated into each well of a 96-well plate. Cell proliferation was evaluated at 0, 24, 48 and 72 h after cell inoculation. At every time point, 10 µL of the CCK-8 reagent (Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, MO, USA) was added per well, and the cells were incubated at 37°C with 5% CO2 for an additional 2 h. Finally, the absorbance values at a wavelength of 450 nm were detected using a microplate reader.
Flow Cytometric Analysis of Cell Apoptosis
After a 48-h incubation period, the transfected cells were rinsed with phosphate buffer solution, treated with trypsin and subjected to Annexin V-FITC Apoptosis Detection Kit Beyotime; Shanghai, China for cell apoptosis measurement. After centrifugation at 1000 × g for 5 min, the transfected cells were collected and resuspended in 195 µL of Annexin V–FITC binding buffer. Next, 5 μL of Annexin V–FITC and 10 μL of propidium iodide were added to the cell suspension. After an incubated at 20–25°C for 20 min without light, the apoptotic cells were detected using a FACScan flow cytometer (BD Biosciences, Franklin Lakes, NJ, USA).
Cell Migration and Invasion Assays
Cell migration was evaluated according to the Transwell® method in previous publications.27–29 Transfected cells were washed with phosphate buffer solution and resuspended in FBS-free basal medium. Next, 5 × 104 cells in suspension volume of 200 µL were introduced into each upper chamber of 24-well Transwell insert (Corning Incorporated, Corning, NY, USA). The lower chambers were filled with 600 µL of culture medium supplemented with 20% FBS, which acted as a chemoattractant.
The cells were allowed to pass through the 8 μm pores in the membranes for 24 h, after which the non-migrated cells were gently removed with a cotton swab. The migrated cells were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde, stained with 0.5% crystal violet and imaged using an inverted light microscope (Olympus Corporation, Tokyo, Japan). Five random fields were selected, and the number of migrated cells was calculated in each field and averaged. To evaluate cell invasion, the upper chambers were precoated with Matrigel (cat.no 354,234; BD Biosciences). The protein concentration of Matrigel is 9.6 mg/mL. The Matrigel was diluted to 300 ug/mL using FBS-free basal medium. A volume of 100 µL diluted Matrigel was added into the upper chambers and polymerized by cultivating at 37°C for 2 h. The remaining steps were the same as those described for the migration assay.
Xenograft Tumor Model Analysis
Studies involving animals were performed with approval from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Henan Provincial People’s Hospital (ACUC-HNPPH.20140702), in strict accordance with the NIH guidelines for the care and use of laboratory animals. Short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) specifically targeting LINC00519 (sh-LINC00519) and NC shRNA (sh-NC) were synthesized by GenePharma Co., Ltd., and were inserted into the GenePharma Supersilencing Vector. After lentivirus production, CAL-27 cells were transfected with lentiviruses encoding sh-LINC00519 or sh-NC, and the stably LINC00519-silenced CAL-27 cells were selected by incubation with puromycin. Four-week-old BALB/c nude mice were purchased from Shanghai SLAC Laboratory Animal Co., Ltd. (Shanghai, China), and injected subcutaneously with CAL-27 cells stably transfected with sh-LINC00519 or sh-NC. From 1 to 4 weeks after cell injection, the width and length of each tumor xenograft was monitored every 4 days, and the tumor volume was calculated using the formula: tumor volume = (length × width2)/2. Four weeks after implantation, all mice were euthanized by cervical dislocation, and the tumor xenografts were dissected and weighted.
The putative miRNAs of LINC00519 were determined using the miRDB tool (http://mirdb.org/miRDB/index.html). TargetScan (http://www.targetscan.org/vert_60/) and miRDB online databases were searched for potential targets of miR-876-3p.
Subcellular Fractionation Assay
TSCC cells in the logarithmic growth phase were collected and subjected to nuclear and cytoplasmic fractionation using the Cytoplasmic and Nuclear RNA Purification Kit (Norgen, Thorold, ON, Canada). RNA was extracted from both fractions and subjected to qRT-PCR to test the relative expression of LINC00519 in both fractions. GAPDH and U6 were used as housekeeping controls in the nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions, respectively.
RNA Immunoprecipitation (RIP) Assay
RIP was performed using the EZ-Magna RIP™ RNA Binding Protein Immunoprecipitation Kit (Millipore, Billerica, MA, USA). TSCC cells were washed twice with phosphate buffer solution, lysed with RIP lysis buffer and centrifuged. The whole-cell extracts were incubated with magnetic beads that had been precoated with a human anti-Argonaute 2 (Ago2) antibody (Millipore) or control IgG (Millipore). An input containing 10% whole-cell extract was used as the positive control. After an overnight incubation at 4°C, the magnetic beads were collected and treated with RNase-free DNase I and Proteinase K to digest the extra DNA and protein. Finally, qRT-PCR was performed to detect the enrichment of LINC00519 and miR-876-3p in the immunoprecipitated RNA.
Luciferase Reporter Assay
Fragments of LINC00519 and MACC1 containing the miR-876-3p binding site were constructed by GenePharma Co., Ltd. and cloned into the psiCHECK™-2 luciferase reporter vector (Promega Corporation, Madison, WI, USA) to generate the reporter vectors wild-type-LINC00519 (wt-LINC00519) and wt-MACC1. Site-directed mutations of the miR-876-3p binding sequences in the LINC00519 and MACC1 fragments were achieved using a Site-Directed Mutagenesis Kit (Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA). The reporter vectors mutant-LINC00519 (mut-LINC00519) and mut-MACC1 were created by inserting the mutant LINC00519 and MACC1 fragments into the psiCHECK™-2 luciferase reporter vector. TSCC cells were seeded into 24-well plates and incubated overnight at 37°C with 5% CO2, followed by co-transfection with wt or mut reporter vectors and miR-876-3p mimic or miR-NC in the presence of Lipofectamine® 2000. After 48 h, the relative luciferase activity was detected using a Dual-Luciferase Reporter System (Promega).
For total protein extraction, cultured cells were rinsed with ice-cooled phosphate buffer solution and lysed in RIPA buffer supplemented with protease and phosphatase inhibitors (Beyotime). An enhanced BCA protein assay kit (Beyotime) was used to determine the total protein concentration in each lysate. Equivalent amounts of proteins were loaded onto 10% SDS-polyacrylamide gels, separated by electrophoresis and transferred onto polyvinylidene difluoride membranes (Millipore). The membranes were blocked in 5% non-fat milk at room temperature for 2 h and were incubated overnight at 4°C with primary antibodies specific for MACC1 (ab226803; Abcam, Cambridge, MA, USA) or GAPDH (ab181602; Abcam). Subsequently, the membranes were probed with a goat anti-rabbit horseradish peroxidase-conjugated secondary antibody (ab205718; Abcam). The labeled proteins on the blots were detected using an ECL Substrate Kit (Abcam). GAPDH served as the loading control.
All experiments were performed in three independently repeats, and all data are presented as means ± standard errors. Student’s t-test was used to compare the differences between the two groups. Differences in multiple comparisons were examined using a one-way analysis of variance with Tukey’s test. A Pearson’s correlation analysis was used to evaluate the potential relationships between LINC00519, miR-876-3p and MACC1. All statistical analyses were performed using SPSS software, version 19.0 (SPSS, Chicago, IL, USA). A P value <0.05 was considered statistically significant.
LINC00519 Depletion Inhibits Cell Proliferation, Migration and Invasion and Promotes Cell Apoptosis in TSCC
Because TSCC is a type of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSC), the LINC00519 expression profile was analyzed in HNSCs included in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) dataset. As depicted in Figure 1A, LINC00519 was expressed strongly in HNSC tissues compared with that in normal tissues. To verify this profile, the expression of LINC00519 was detected by qRT-PCR in 52 pairs of TSCC tissues and adjacent normal tissues. Consistent with the results of the TCGA dataset analysis, LINC00519 was overexpressed in TSCC tissues relative to the adjacent normal tissues (Figure 1B). Similarly, higher expression of LINC00519 was observed in TSCC cell lines (SCC-9, SCC-15 and CAL-27) than in normal gingival epithelial cells (Figure 1C). Next, the prognostic potential of LINC00519 expression in patients with TSCC was analyzed using the clinical data of TSCC patients. All 52 patients with TSCC were classified into either LINC00519-low or LINC00519-high groups using the median value of LINC00519 in TSCC tissues as the cutoff point. Patients in the LINC00519-high group had a shorter overall survival duration than those in the LINC00519-low group (Figure 1D, P = 0.028).
To unveil the detailed roles of LINC00519 in TSCC, this RNA was knocked down or increased in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells by transfection with si-LINC00519 or pc-LINC00519 (Figure 2A), respectively. Here, si-LINC00519#1 most efficiently silenced LINC00519 expression and was therefore selected for subsequent experiments. CCK-8 assay was used to detect the impact of LINC00519 on the proliferation of TSCC cells. Transfection with si-LINC00519 suppressed the proliferation of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells, whereas transfection with pc-LINC00519 promoted cell proliferation (Figure 2B). In addition, flow cytometry analysis indicated that LINC00519 knockdown resulted in significant increases in the percentages of apoptotic SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells. In contrast, the apoptotic rate was decreased in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells upon LINC00519 overexpression (Figure 2C). Cell migration and invasion assays, respectively, demonstrated that the migratory (Figure 2D) and invasive (Figure 2E) capacities of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells were considerably hindered by LINC00519 silencing, but clearly increased by LINC00519 overexpression. Overall, these results suggest that LINC00519 acts as an oncogenic lncRNA in TSCC cells.
LINC00519 Competitively Sponges miR-876-3p in TSCC Cells
Next, a series of experiments were carried out to decipher the mechanisms by which LINC00519 aggravates the oncogenicity of TSCC cells. First, two online predictors of lncRNA subcellular localization, namely lncLocator (http://www.csbio.sjtu.edu.cn/bioinf/lncLocator/) and lncATLAS (http://lncatlas.crg.eu/), were used to forecast the subcellular location of LINC00519. The predictions suggested that LINC00519 was mostly distributed in the cytoplasm (Figure 3A and B). Next, subcellular fractionation assay confirmed the abundant expression of LINC00519 in the cytoplasm of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells (Figure 3C). The accumulated evidence demonstrates that cytoplasmic lncRNA acts as a ceRNA and decoy for certain miRNAs in human cancers.30–32 Accordingly, a ceRNA model was utilized in the mechanistic studies.
Using the miRDB, 36 miRNAs (Figure 3D) were predicted as potential binding partners of LINC00519. Among these candidates, miR-7-5p, miR-876-3p, miR-216a-5p, miR-450b-5p, miR-890, miR-554, miR-670-3p, miR-30b-3p, miR-891a-3p and miR-215-3p were selected for subsequent assays as their enrollment in tumor genesis and progression. To further filter the results, changes in the expression of these miRNAs were analyzed in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells after LINC00519 depletion. qRT-PCR analysis revealed that miR-876-3p expression was increased in LINC00519-deficient SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells, while the expression of other miRNAs did not change in response to si-LINC00519 transfection (Figure 3E). Additionally, miR-876-3p was weakly expressed in TSCC tissues relative to adjacent normal tissues (Figure 3F). Notably, an inverse trend between LINC00519 and miR-876-3p expression in TSCC tissues was verified using Pearson’s correlation analysis (Figure 3G; r = −0.6463, P < 0.0001).
The wild-type and mutant binding sites of miR-876-3p in the sequence of LINC00519 are presented in Figure 3H. Luciferase reporter assay was performed by co-transfecting wt-LINC00519 or mut-LINC00519 with miR-876-3p mimic or miR-NC into SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells. The upregulation of miR-876-3p eminently decreased the luciferase activity of wt-LINC00519 in both SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells, whereas no obvious change was identified in mut-LINC00519-transfected cells (Figure 3I). Finally, RIP assay revealed that both LINC00519 and miR-876-3p were greatly enriched in an Ago2 antibody in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells (Figure 3J), thus suggesting that these RNA elements coexist in the same RNA induced silencing complex. Taken together, the data suggest that LINC00519 acts as a ceRNA by sponging miR-876-3p in TSCC cells.
MACC1 is a Target of miR-876-3p in TSCC Cells
To explore the effect of miR-876-3p in TSCC cells, miR-876-3p mimic was transfected into SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells. The mimic clearly increased miR-876-3p expression in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells (Figure 4A). CCK-8 assay implicated that the proliferation capacities of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells were impaired by the overexpression of miR-876-3p (Figure 4B). In addition, the ectopic expression of miR-876-3p remarkably stimulated the apoptosis of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells (Figure 4C and D). Cell migration and invasion assays, respectively, affirmed that miR-876-3p restoration significantly curbed the migratory (Figure 4E) and invasive (Figure 4F) abilities of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells.
Next, the putative target of miR-876-3p was predicted by bioinformatics analysis. A total of 362 genes were predicted by both TargetScan and miRDB. Among these candidates, the 3′-UTR of MACC1 contains complementary binding sequences for miR-876-3 (Figure 4G) and was chosen for further confirmation because of its well-known oncogenic actions in TSCC progression.33 Data from the luciferase reporter assay revealed that the upregulation of miR-876-3p strikingly reduced the luciferase activity of wt-MACC1 in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells, whereas mutation of the binding site in MACC1 3ʹ-UTR counteracted the suppressive action of miR-876-3p on luciferase activity (Figure 4H). Furthermore, MACC1 was clearly overexpressed in TSCC tissues than in adjacent normal tissues (Figure 4I). Additionally, patients with TSCC characterized by high MACC1 expression presented shorter overall survival in contrast to patients with low MACC1 expression (Figure 4J, P = 0.033). There was an inverse expression correlation between miR-876-3p and MACC1 expression in the TSCC tissues (Figure 4K; r = −0.6188, P < 0.0001). Moreover, transfection with miR-876-3p mimic led to a significant decrease in the expression of MACC1 mRNA (Figure 4L) and protein (Figure 4M) in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells. Collectively, miR-876-3p exerts cancer-inhibiting roles and directly targets MACC1 in TSCC cells.
LINC00519 Regulates MACC1 Expression in TSCC Cells by Sequestering miR-876-3p
LncRNAs can act as ceRNAs by sponging and thereby modulating the targets of miRNAs.34 After identifying LINC00519 as a molecular sponge for miR-876-3p, we next attempted to test whether LINC00519 would be implicated in the regulation of MACC1 expression in TSCC cells. Thus, si-LINC00519 or si-NC was transfected into SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells, and the expression levels of MACC1 mRNA and protein were measured via qRT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively. Interference of LINC00519 caused prominent decreases in the MACC1 mRNA (Figure 5A) and protein (Figure 5B) levels in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells, whereas these regulatory effects were obviously abolished by anti-miR-876-3p (Figure 5C and D). Furthermore, a correlation analysis demonstrated that LINC00519 expression was positively correlated with MACC1 expression in TSCC tissues (Figure 5E; r = 0.6645, P < 0.0001). RIP assay further corroborated the coexistence of LINC00519, miR-876-3p and MACC1 in the same RNA induced silencing complex (Figure 5F). In summary, LINC00519 could decoy miR-876-3p as a molecular sponge in TSCC cells, thus leading to an increase in MACC1 expression.
Silencing miR-876-3p or Overexpressing MACC1 Eliminates the Inhibitory Actions of LINC00519 Knockdown on the Progress of TSCC Cells
Rescue experiments were implemented to further elucidate whether LINC00519 exerted its functions in TSCC cells through the miR-876-3p/MACC1 axis. The efficiency of anti-miR-876-3p as a silencer miR-876-3p expression is depicted in Figure 6A. LINC00519-depleted SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells were co-transfected with anti-miR-876-3p or anti-miR-NC. CCK-8 assay revealed that the inhibitory effect of si-LINC00519 on the proliferation of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells was abolished by co-transfection with anti-miR-876-3p (Figure 6B). Flow cytometry analysis indicated that the inhibition of miR-876-3p eliminated the increased apoptosis of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells in response to LINC00519 knockdown (Figure 6C). In addition, the suppressive effects of LINC00519 silencing on the migration (Figure 6D) and invasion (Figure 6E) of SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells were clearly reversed by anti-miR-876-3p.
Meanwhile, the MACC1 overexpression plasmid pc-MACC1 was used in rescue experiments. Western blotting verified that transfection with pc-MACC1 led to increased MACC1 protein expression in SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells (Figure 7A). SCC-15 and CAL-27 cells were co-transfected with pc-MACC1 or pcDNA3.1 and si-LINC00519, and the influences of these reagents on cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration and invasion were determined by CCK-8 assay, flow cytometry, and cell migration and invasion assays, respectively. The data revealed that interference with LINC00519 clearly constrained cell proliferation (Figure 7B), promoted cell apoptosis (Figure 7C) and restricted cell migration (Figure 7D) and invasion (Figure 7E), whereas MACC1 overexpression counteracted these effects. Consequently, these results suggest that LINC00519 promotes the malignant properties of TSCC cells by regulating the miR-876-3p/MACC1 axis.
Depletion of LINC00519 Restrains TSCC Tumor Growth in vivo
First, LINC00519 expression was analyzed in CAL-27 cells stably transfected with sh-LINC00519 or sh-NC. qRT-PCR analysis revealed that LINC00519 expression was remarkably decreased in stably sh-LINC00519-transfected CAL-27 cells relative to sh-NC-transfected cells (Figure 8A), suggesting that sh-LINC00519 lentivirus-infected CAL-27 cells could be used in xenograft tumor model analysis. To investigate the effects of LINC00519 on tumor growth in vivo, xenograft models were constructed by subcutaneously injecting nude mice with CAL-27 cells stably transfected with sh-LINC00519 or sh-NC. The volumes (Figure 8B and C) and weights (Figure 8D) of the xenograft tumors were strikingly lower in the sh-LINC00519 group than in the sh-NC group. Molecular analysis revealed that xenograft tumors derived from mice injected with stable LINC00519-knockdown cells contained decreased LINC00519 (Figure 8E) and increased miR-876-3p (Figure 8F) levels. Furthermore, the decreased MACC1 mRNA (Figure 8G) and protein (Figure 8H) levels were also confirmed in LINC00519 depleted-tumor xenografts. These results further supported the cancer-promoting effects of LINC00519 in TSCC tumorigenesis in vivo.
The importance of lncRNAs in cancer genesis and progression has recently received considerable attention. Several studies have revealed the dysregulation of lncRNAs in TSCC.35–37 Abnormally expressed lncRNAs may exert tumor-promoting or tumor-inhibiting effects and could participate in the regulation of tumor properties in TSCC.38,39 Thus, lncRNAs may be novel auxiliary diagnostic and therapeutic targets in TSCC. However, the detailed roles of most lncRNAs in TSCC and the related molecular mechanisms largely remain unclear. In this study, we attempted to investigate the expression status and regulatory effect of LINC00519 TSCC. We also explored the molecular mechanisms by which LINC00519 executes its oncogenic role in TSCC in detail.
LINC00519 expression is upregulated in lung squamous cell carcinoma.26 High LINC00519 expression is closely associated with an unsatisfactory prognosis in patients with lung squamous cell carcinoma.26 Functionally, LINC00519 exerts pro-oncogenic roles in lung squamous cell carcinoma cells.26 In contrast, the expression profile and biological functions of LINC00519 in TSCC have rarely been documented. In this study, LINC00519 was highly expressed in TSCC from both the TCGA database and our own database. Importantly, patients with high LINC00519 expression had shorter overall survival durations than those with low LINC00519 expression. LINC00519 depletion attenuated TSCC cell proliferation, migration and invasion and promoted cell apoptosis in vitro.
Matrigel is a soluble basement membrane component isolated from Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm mouse sarcoma.40 It is in a liquid state at 4°C and polymerizes into a physiologically active gel state at a physiological state (24~37°C). It mainly consisted of laminin, type IV collagen, nestin, heparin sulfate glycoprotein, matrix metalloproteinases and various cytokines. In tumors, the basement membrane matrix still presents biological activity in different cells.41 Matrigel can provide a favorable tumor microenvironment for tumor cell invasion, migration, luminal structure formation, cell biochemical function, and tumor growth in vivo.42 In our study, a total of 1 × 106 TSCC cells in 100 μL phosphate buffer saline together with an equal volume of Matrigel basement (9.6 mg/mL) membrane matrix were used in xenograft tumor model analysis, and subcutaneously injected into the mice. The results showed that loss of LINC00519 impaired tumor growth in vivo. These results suggest that LINC00519 is a potential prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target for TSCC.
Increasing studies have corroborated the roles of lncRNAs in a wide range of processes through various mechanisms.43 Mechanistically, lncRNAs can modulate gene expression at the pre-transcriptional, transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels, and the subcellular distribution of lncRNAs decides the level of regulation to a great degree.44 Cytoplasmic lncRNAs always act as molecular sponges for miRNAs, thereby hindering the inhibitory actions of miRNA against target mRNA.25 Herein, online lncRNA subcellular localization predictors and subcellular fractionation assays were used to determine that LINC00519 was mostly located in the cytoplasm of TSCC cells, suggesting that this lncRNA may exert its oncogenic actions by sequestering miRNA. Therefore, bioinformatics tool was applied to identify candidate miRNAs that may target LINC00519. Using qRT-PCR, luciferase reporter and RIP assays, we revealed that LINC00519 could act as a miR-876-3p sponge in TSCC cells.
MiR-876-3p is differentially expressed in multiple human cancers and contributes to the tumorigenic processes.45–47 However, few reports have described the expression and functions of miR-876-3p in TSCC. In this study, we demonstrated the downregulation of miR-876-3p in TSCC. Functionally, miR-876-3p upregulation restricted TSCC growth and metastasis in vitro. MiRNAs exert regulatory functions by directly binding to the 3′-UTR downstream targets.48 Hence, we elucidated the direct target gene that contributes to the anti-oncogenic activities of miR-876-3p in TSCC cells. The MACC1 3ʹ-UTR contains a highly conserved binding site for miR-876-3p, which was further confirmed by a luciferase reporter assay. Additionally, MACC1 turned out to be negatively regulated by miR-876-3p in TSCC cells. After identifying MACC1 as a direct target of miR-876-3p, the association between LINC00519, miR-876-3p and MACC1 in TSCC was unveiled. Our study revealed that LINC00519 promoted MACC1 expression in TSCC by decoying miR-876-3p. Additionally, RIP assay affirmed the coexistence of LINC00519, miR-876-3p and MACC1 in the same RNA induced silencing complex. These results provide sufficient evidence supporting the existence of a novel ceRNA pathway involving LINC00519, miR-876-3p and MACC1 in TSCC.
MACC1, which is located on human chromosome 7 (7p21.1),49 is upregulated in TSCC and is closely associated with lymphatic metastasis.50 In TSCC patients, increased MACC1 expression tends to be associated with worse clinical outcomes.50 MACC1 is considered the main regulator of tumor progression in TSCC, in which it affects a number of malignant processes.33,50 MACC1 affected cancer progression through different mechanisms. For example, MACC1 improves the cisplatin resistance partially in lung cancer via the PI3K/AKT pathway,51 whereas its depletion suppresses lung cancer cell proliferation and causes cell apoptosis through the β-catenin pathway.52 Furthermore, MACC1 is implicated in the control of HGF/Met and MEK/ERK pathways in ovarian cancer,53 Akt/β-catenin pathway in nasopharyngeal carcinoma,54 and HGF/c-MET/AKT pathway in hepatocellular carcinoma.55 Our study did not explore the effects of LINC00519 on these signaling pathways that were under the control of MACC1. We will resolve it in the near future.
In this study, our results also indicate that MACC1 is controlled by the LINC00519/miR-876-3p axis in TSCC cells. Meanwhile, rescue experiments revealed that the inhibition of miR-876-3p or overexpression of MACC1 mitigated the inhibitory influences of LINC00519 depletion on cell proliferation, migration and invasion and neutralized the exacerbating actions of LINC00519 knockdown on the apoptosis of TSCC cells. In summary, in TSCC cells, LINC00519 competes with miR-876-3p to act as a ceRNA and thus activates MACC1 and aggravates tumor oncogenicity.
LINC00519 expression was upregulated in TSCC, and this long non-coding RNA exerted a tumor-promoting role and thus facilitated TSCC progression. Mechanistically, LINC00519 acted as a ceRNA for miR-876-3p in TSCC, thus enhancing the expression of MACC1. Our current study findings enhance our understanding of the mechanism underlying TSCC pathogenesis and may promote the development of potential targeted therapies for TSCC.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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