STAT3-mediated upregulation of lncRNA HOXD-AS1 as a ceRNA facilitates liver cancer metastasis by regulating SOX4

Mol Cancer. 2017 Aug 14;16(1):136. doi: 10.1186/s12943-017-0680-1.


Background: Several of the thousands of human long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been functionally characterized, yet their potential involvement in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains poorly understood.

Methods: LncRNA-HOXD-AS1 was identified by microarray and validated by real-time PCR. The clinicopathological significance of HOXD-AS1 was analyzed by Kaplan-Meier method. Chromatin immunoprecipitation was conducted to examine the mechanism of HOXD-AS1 upregulation. The role of HOXD-AS1 in HCC cells was assessed both in vitro and in vivo. ceRNA function of HOXD-AS1 was evaluated by RNA immunoprecipitation and biotin-coupled miRNA pull down assays.

Results: In this study, we found that HOXD-AS1 was significantly upregulated in HCC tissues. Clinical investigation demonstrated high expression level of HOXD-AS1 was associated with poor prognosis and high tumor node metastasis stage of HCC patients, and was an independent risk factor for survival. Moreover, our results revealed that STAT3 could specifically interact with the promoter of HOXD-AS1 and activate HOXD-AS1 transcription. Knockdown of HOXD-AS1 significantly inhibited migration and invasion of HCC cells in vitro and distant lung metastasis in vivo. Additionally, HOXD-AS1 was enriched in the cytoplasm, and shared miRNA response elements with SOX4. Overexpression of HOXD-AS1 competitively bound to miR-130a-3p that prevented SOX4 from miRNA-mediated degradation, thus activated the expression of EZH2 and MMP2 and facilitated HCC metastasis.

Conclusions: In summary, HOXD-AS1 is a prognostic marker for HCC patients and it may play a pro-metastatic role in hepatocarcinogenesis.

Keywords: HOXD-AS1; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Metastasis; SOX4; ceRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / analysis
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / metabolism*
  • SOXC Transcription Factors / genetics
  • SOXC Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation / genetics


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • SOX4 protein, human
  • SOXC Transcription Factors
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • RNA