Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most prevalent subtype of liver cancer, and it is characterized by a high rate of recurrence and heterogeneity. Liver cancer stem cells (CSCs) may well contribute to both of these pathological properties, but the mechanisms underlying their self-renewal and maintenance are poorly understood. Here, using transcriptome microarray analysis, we identified a long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) termed lncTCF7 that is highly expressed in HCC tumors and liver CSCs. LncTCF7 is required for liver CSC self-renewal and tumor propagation. Mechanistically, lncTCF7 recruits the SWI/SNF complex to the promoter of TCF7 to regulate its expression, leading to activation of Wnt signaling. Our data suggest that lncTCF7-mediated Wnt signaling primes liver CSC self-renewal and tumor propagation. In sum, therefore, we have identified an lncRNA-based Wnt signaling regulatory circuit that promotes tumorigenic activity in liver cancer stem cells, highlighting the role that lncRNAs can play in tumor growth and propagation.
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