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CircPCNXL2 promotes tumor growth and metastasis by interacting with STRAP to regulate ERK signaling in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

Molecular Cancer 2024 Februrary 18
BACKGROUND: circular RNAs (circRNAs) have been reported to exert important effects in the progression of numerous cancers. However, the functions of circRNAs in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) are still unclear.

METHODS: circPCNXL2 (has_circ_0016956) were identified in paired ICC by circRNA microarray. Then, we assessed the biological functions of circPCNXL2 by CCK8, EdU, clone formation, transwell, wound healing assays, and xenograft models. RNA pull-down, mass spectrometry, and RNA immunoprecipitation (RIP) were applied to explore the interaction between cirrcPCNXL2 and serine-threonine kinase receptor-associated protein (STRAP). RNA pull-down, RIP and luciferase reporter assays were used to investigate the sponge functions of circPCNXL2. In the end, we explore the effects of circPCNXL2 and trametinib (a MEK1/2 inhibitor) in vivo.

RESULTS: circPCNXL2 was upregulated in ICC tissues and cell lines, which promoted the proliferation and metastasis of ICC in vitro and in vivo. In terms of the mechanisms, circPCNXL2 could directly bind to STRAP and induce the interaction between STRAP and MEK1/2, resulting in the tumor promotion in ICC by activation of ERK/MAPK pathways. Besides, circPCNXL2 could regulate the expression of SRSF1 by sponging miR-766-3p and subsequently facilitated the growth of ICC. Finally, circPCNXL2 could partially inhibit the anti-tumor activity of trametinib in vivo.

CONCLUSION: circPCNXL2 played a crucial role in the progression of ICC by interacting with STRAP to activate the ERK signaling pathway, as well as by modulating the miR-766-3p/SRSF1 axis. These findings suggest that circPCNXL2 may be a promising biomarker and therapeutic target for ICC.

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