Hypoxia has long been linked to the Warburg effect, yet the underlying mechanism remains largely unclear. It is also not known if lncRNAs are involved in the contribution of hypoxia to the Warburg effect. Here we show that lincRNA-p21 is a hypoxia-responsive lncRNA and is essential for hypoxia-enhanced glycolysis. Hypoxia/HIF-1α-induced lincRNA-p21 is able to bind HIF-1α and VHL and thus disrupts the VHL-HIF-1α interaction. This disassociation attenuates VHL-mediated HIF-1α ubiquitination and causes HIF-1α accumulation. These data indicate the existence of a positive feedback loop between HIF-1α and lincRNA-p21 that promotes glycolysis under hypoxia. The ability of lincRNA-p21 to promote tumor growth is validated in mouse xenograft models. Together, these findings suggest that lincRNA-p21 is an important player in the regulation of the Warburg effect and also implicate lincRNA-p21 as a valuable therapeutic target for cancer.
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