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Recent Update on the Role of Circular RNAs in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Authors Ely A, Bloom K, Maepa MB, Arbuthnot P

Received 28 October 2020

Accepted for publication 17 December 2020

Published 27 January 2021 Volume 2021:8 Pages 1—17


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Ahmed Kaseb

Abdullah Ely, Kristie Bloom, Mohube Betty Maepa, Patrick Arbuthnot

Wits/SAMRC Antiviral Gene Therapy Research Unit, School of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Correspondence: Patrick Arbuthnot Tel +27 11 717 2365

Abstract: After being overlooked for decades, circular RNAs (circRNAs) have recently generated considerable interest. circRNAs play a role in a variety of normal and pathological biological processes, including hepatocarcinogenesis. Many circRNAs contribute to hepatocarcinogenesis through sponging of microRNAs (miRs) and disruption of cellular signaling pathways that play a part in control of cell proliferation, metastasis and apoptosis. In most cases, overexpressed circRNAs sequester miRs to cause de-repressed translation of mRNAs that encode oncogenic proteins. Conversely, low expression of circRNAs has also been described in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and is associated with inhibited production of tumor suppressor proteins. Other functions of circRNAs that contribute to hepatocarcinogenesis include translation of truncated proteins and acting as adapters to regulate influence of transcription factors on target gene expression. circRNAs also affect hepatocyte transformation indirectly. For example, the molecules regulate immune surveillance of cancerous cells and influence the liver fibrosis that commonly precedes HCC. Marked over- or under-expression of circRNA expression in HCC, with correlating plasma concentrations, has diagnostic utility and assays of these RNAs are being developed as biomarkers of HCC. Although knowledge in the field has recently surged, the myriad of described effects suggests that not all may be vital to hepatocarcinogenesis. Nevertheless, investigation of the role of circRNAs is providing valuable insights that are likely to contribute to improved management of a serious and highly aggressive cancer.

Keywords: HCC, HBV, circRNA, ceRNA, microRNA, biomarkers, signaling pathways

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