Cancer research

Long noncoding RNA HULC modulates abnormal lipid metabolism in hepatoma cells through an miR-9-mediated RXRA signaling pathway.

PMID 25592151


HULC is a long noncoding RNA overexpressed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but its functional contributions in this setting have not been determined. In this study, we explored the hypothesis that HULC contributes to malignant development by supporting abnormal lipid metabolism in hepatoma cells. HULC modulated the deregulation of lipid metabolism in HCC by activating the acyl-CoA synthetase subunit ACSL1. Immunohistochemical analysis of tissue microarrays revealed that approximately 77% (180/233) of HCC tissues were positive for ACSL1. Moreover, HULC mRNA levels correlated positively with ACSL1 levels in 60 HCC cases according to real-time PCR analysis. Mechanistic investigations showed that HULC upregulated the transcriptional factor PPARA, which activated the ACSL1 promoter in hepatoma cells. HULC also suppressed miR-9 targeting of PPARA mRNA by eliciting methylation of CpG islands in the miR-9 promoter. We documented the ability of HULC to promote lipogenesis, thereby stimulating accumulation of intracellular triglycerides and cholesterol in vitro and in vivo. Strikingly, ACSL1 overexpression that generates cholesterol was sufficient to enhance the proliferation of hepatoma cells. Further, cholesterol addition was sufficient to upregulate HULC expression through a positive feedback loop involving the retinoid receptor RXRA, which activated the HULC promoter. Overall, we concluded that HULC functions as an oncogene in hepatoma cells, acting mechanistically by deregulating lipid metabolism through a signaling pathway involving miR-9, PPARA, and ACSL1 that is reinforced by a feed-forward pathway involving cholesterol and RXRA to drive HULC signaling.