Large-scale transcriptome sequencing efforts have vastly expanded the catalog of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) with varying evolutionary conservation, lineage expression, and cancer specificity. Here, we functionally characterize a novel ultraconserved lncRNA, THOR (ENSG00000226856), which exhibits expression exclusively in testis and a broad range of human cancers. THOR knockdown and overexpression in multiple cell lines and animal models alters cell or tumor growth supporting an oncogenic role. We discovered a conserved interaction of THOR with IGF2BP1 and show that THOR contributes to the mRNA stabilization activities of IGF2BP1. Notably, transgenic THOR knockout produced fertilization defects in zebrafish and also conferred a resistance to melanoma onset. Likewise, ectopic expression of human THOR in zebrafish accelerated the onset of melanoma. THOR represents a novel class of functionally important cancer/testis lncRNAs whose structure and function have undergone positive evolutionary selection.
Keywords: IGF2BP1; RNA; RNA-seq; cancer; conservation; fertility; iCLIP; lncRNA; zebrafish.
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