The intronic long noncoding RNA ANRASSF1 recruits PRC2 to the RASSF1A promoter, reducing the expression of RASSF1A and increasing cell proliferation

PLoS Genet. 2013;9(8):e1003705. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003705. Epub 2013 Aug 22.


The down-regulation of the tumor-suppressor gene RASSF1A has been shown to increase cell proliferation in several tumors. RASSF1A expression is regulated through epigenetic events involving the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2); however, the molecular mechanisms modulating the recruitment of this epigenetic modifier to the RASSF1 locus remain largely unknown. Here, we identify and characterize ANRASSF1, an endogenous unspliced long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) that is transcribed from the opposite strand on the RASSF1 gene locus in several cell lines and tissues and binds PRC2. ANRASSF1 is transcribed through RNA polymerase II and is 5'-capped and polyadenylated; it exhibits nuclear localization and has a shorter half-life compared with other lncRNAs that bind PRC2. ANRASSF1 endogenous expression is higher in breast and prostate tumor cell lines compared with non-tumor, and an opposite pattern is observed for RASSF1A. ANRASSF1 ectopic overexpression reduces RASSF1A abundance and increases the proliferation of HeLa cells, whereas ANRASSF1 silencing causes the opposite effects. These changes in ANRASSF1 levels do not affect the RASSF1C isoform abundance. ANRASSF1 overexpression causes a marked increase in both PRC2 occupancy and histone H3K27me3 repressive marks, specifically at the RASSF1A promoter region. No effect of ANRASSF1 overexpression was detected on PRC2 occupancy and histone H3K27me3 at the promoter regions of RASSF1C and the four other neighboring genes, including two well-characterized tumor suppressor genes. Additionally, we demonstrated that ANRASSF1 forms an RNA/DNA hybrid and recruits PRC2 to the RASSF1A promoter. Together, these results demonstrate a novel mechanism of epigenetic repression of the RASSF1A tumor suppressor gene involving antisense unspliced lncRNA, in which ANRASSF1 selectively represses the expression of the RASSF1 isoform overlapping the antisense transcript in a location-specific manner. In a broader perspective, our findings suggest that other non-characterized unspliced intronic lncRNAs transcribed in the human genome might contribute to a location-specific epigenetic modulation of genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation*
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Silencing
  • HeLa Cells
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Introns / genetics
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / genetics*
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / metabolism*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Histones
  • RASSF1 protein, human
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2

Grant support

This work was supported by grants from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) (SVA and EMR) and from Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia em Oncogenômica (SVA and EMR), by fellowships from FAPESP (FCB, RCS, HIN, DTS, ACA) and from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) (MSA) and by investigator fellowship awards (CNPq) (SVA, CFMM and EMR). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.